As measles cases continue to climb, people are taking notice. Public health officials as well as a growing list of politicians are asking parents to make sure that their child or children get the MMR vaccine.
While support is growing to have all children immunized against the highly contagious disease, anti-vaccination groups are also speaking out through media outlets, emails, social media and blogs.
In the 1990s, a now discredited study linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Parents reacted with fear throughout world and began opting out of getting their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.
Since that time, dozens of medical studies have been conducted and found no connection between the vaccine and autism. The doctor, Andrew Wakefield, was stripped of his license and the British Medical Journal called his research “fraudulent.”
That hasn’t stopped people from continuing to quote his discredited findings.
With so much attention being given to measles these days, new myths have popped up from people who continue to spread fear about the MMR vaccine.
Two myths in particular are making the rounds:
1. The vaccine doesn’t work because it protects against a different strain.
The first concern, which has been posted on anti-vaccination blogs, is that the vaccine protects against an “A” type of measles virus, while the kind that’s making everyone sick is a “B”-type virus. Therefore, the vaccine doesn’t protect against the kind of measles that’s making everyone sick.
It’s true that are different strains of the measles virus, but it doesn’t act like the flu virus – where different strains can overpower a particular vaccine. Each measles virus is given a letter and a number, for example B3 or D4. They refer to the genetic fingerprint of the virus. Since 1990, 19 different strains, or fingerprints, have been identified, according to the CDC, and scientists use these fingerprints to link infections during an outbreak.
However, the measles virus doesn’t change as much as the flu virus. Once the current vaccine and boosters are in the body’s system – the vaccine protects against all strains of measles.
2. It’s vaccinated people who are spreading measles, not those that are unvaccinated.
The thought behind this myth is that the measles shot, which contains a weakened but live form of the virus, can give people infections that allow them to pass on the disease to others.
It’s an interesting twist according to William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
“The vaccine virus, can, on occasion, spread to others,” Schaffner says. “That gives them protection. It doesn’t give them disease.”
But, he says, to be clear: "On occasion" means the possibility is so remote that it’s highly unlikely.
If that were to happen, Schaffner says, it would actually be a good thing because the person who “caught” the vaccine virus would get the protection, but not the illness. Most likely, they wouldn’t even know it occurred. Other experts say this is more theory than anything else.
Some parents believe measles is a somewhat minor disease that may cause a short period of illness and doesn’t have any long-term effects. There are even groups that have “measles parties” so their children can build a “natural” immunity.
Measles can be fatal to children, adults with suppressed immune systems and the elderly – that’s a very long-term side effect. It can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and require intensive care in the hospital. Complications from measles can cause permanent hearing loss. Measles is not something you want to mess with. Medical experts agree that parents need to get the real facts and have their children vaccinated.
Source: Brenda Goodman MA, http://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/news/20150210/measles-vaccine-myths