As widely publicized and as we’ve discussed in class, measles has reemerged in the United States. Although measles used to be rather widespread in the United States in the past, measles is a very preventable infection today due to the extremely high efficacy of the MMRV vaccine. Yet despite this fact, over 100 people have been infected across 14 states since the beginning of the outbreak in December. It’s true that measles is considered the most transmissible virus in the world; it’s been given the honor of highest R0 of all viruses (you can put as much stock into that value as you would like). However this R0 refers only to susceptible population, much of which consists of the unvaccinated population. With the advanced nature of healthcare infrastructure in this country, the susceptible measles population is much higher than it should be, and this is a result of anti-vaccine and individualistic sentiments in various communities. There has been more and more controversy over this issue over the past ten years, and the current measles outbreak has in some ways reignited this conversation, and certainly amplified the gravity of its implications.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center, summarized in the Washington Post, looked at the feelings of adults in this country towards vaccination. Specifically they asked adults (ages 18+) whether parents should get to decide whether or not to vaccinate their kids as opposed to having mandatory vaccination. From the data, it was concluded that about 70% of adults in the United States believe that parents should have to vaccinate their kids. While this number may or may not be surprising, what I found interesting was the difference in responses seen in the various age groups. Only about 60% of people ages 18 – 29 believed that parents should have to vaccinate their kids; in contrast, approximately 80% of people 54 and up felt that vaccination should be mandatory. While this result may at first seem odd, the article brings attention to the situations in which these different groups grew up. In the early 1960s, the older group was around the high school age, and there were 3 – 4 million cases of measles each year until the vaccine was introduced in 1963. So this group was able to witness the sharp decline in measles incidence first hand. Yet the millennials grew up in a more or less measlesless world so they did not witness the great effect vaccination can have on the population. Perhaps as a result, they seem to feel more skepticism towards mandatory vaccination.
Hopefully we can continue to educate people about the necessity of vaccination as a means of increasing the number of people in favor of it, rather than having to learn the hard way as past generations have. By enduring widespread infection before realizing the great medical tools at our disposal.
- - Eddie