Vaccinations are a Red Herring

Predictably, the measles epidemic is morphing onto a political hot potato, much like global warming. Prospective Republican presidential candidates are being quizzed about vaccinations and whether or not they should be mandatory. The assumption is that the current measles outbreak is due to low measles vaccination rates, yet no questions or answers have been put forth addressing the far more likely cause of the outbreak -- illegal immigration.

Measles, like smallpox, has been eradicated. According to the CDC, “In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country.” This graph illustrates how measles cases dropped dramatically after the measles vaccine was introduced in the 1960s.

Then why are we seeing this sudden surge in measles cases? Lack of vaccinations in the U.S. doesn’t cause the disease, but instead facilitates its spread. If a disease has been eradicated, vaccination is no longer necessary. The CDC reminds us, “Routine smallpox vaccination among the American public stopped in 1972 after the disease was eradicated in the United States.” Arguments about measles vaccinations are a red herring if measles has been truly eradicated.

Then why the surge in cases? The only explanation is that new cases are being introduced into the United States. Since 2001, there have typically been less than 100 measles cases per year in the U.S. In 2014, this number jumped to over 600 cases, with 102 cases alone in January of 2015. The CDC connects the dots. “Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.” Furthermore, “Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S.” Replace “travelers” with “immigrants.”

Guess where illegal immigrants to the U.S. are coming from? The same parts of the world where measles is still common. The current outbreak is linked to initial exposure in December at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Not Omaha, not Bozeman, but California, where 7 percent of residents are in the country illegally. In Los Angeles, the number is even higher where 1 in 10 residents are illegal.

What does this have to do with vaccinations? If measles wasn’t being brought into the U.S., vaccinations would not even be necessary, as with smallpox. The current surge in measles cases coincides perfectly with the Obama Administration’s policy to open our southern border. As I wrote last year, it’s not only measles crossing the border, but also other infectious diseases such as TB. Yet the media chooses to ignore this inconvenient truth and instead play gotcha games with Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

NBC is trying to portray Rand Paul as a rube for linking vaccines to mental disorders. Presumably they are referring to autism, which would fall under the spectrum of mental disorders. A few days ago, NBC interviewed the president before the Super Bowl. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked relevant, timely, and hard-hitting questions about beer when she could have instead asked the president about his previous statements on vaccines and autism. In 2008, then candidate Obama said, “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate; Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included.” She might also have asked about the surge in illegal immigration coincident with the surge in measles cases. It seems that only potential Republican presidential candidates are kooks for discussing vaccines and autism. And no one is making the connection between illegal immigration and measles.

Once again, common sense is in short supply when confronting science. Whether global warming or measles, it’s not hard to know where junk science and politics ends and true science begins. Vaccinations will certainly prevent the spread of measles, but a 100 percent vaccination rate won’t happen, still leaving plenty of children vulnerable to measles if exposed. Perhaps it would be more useful to be discussing measles exposure and eradication and the lessons learned with smallpox.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.

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