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Friday, May 27, 2022

Anti-vaccine movement persists despite being disproven

The anti-vax movement gained traction in the news after the first Measles death in 12 years was reported last spring.

The movement spread quickly and dates back years—just like the diseases that are not being vaccinated.

The anti-vax movement specifically refers to opposition against the MMR vaccination, which stands for Measles, Mumps and Rubella.

According to the Center for Disease Control, one dose of the vaccine is 93 percent effective against the disease and two doses are 97 percent effective.

In 1998, two years before measles was declared eliminated from the United States, Doctor Andrew Wakefield published work in the Lancet that suggested there was more investigation needed to determine a possible relationship between bowel disease, autism and the MMR vaccine, according to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

After Wakefield’s work received substantial media attention, the public reacted negatively. The Lancet later retracted his articles.

Wakefield was found to have had financial motivations to establish a link between autism and MMR, but none whatsoever has been found and he was struck from the British medical register.

Despite the link being debunked, the movement has persisted in the United States.

The Tribeca Film Festival went so far as almost airing a documentary this year that perpetuated the myth and was produced by Andrew Wakefield.

Public Health Madison & Dane County Epidemiologist Amanda Kita-Yarboro said the spread of the debunked claims persists.

“I think even though [people] know that study has been disproven and withdrawn from the journal that it was published in,” she said. “There’s still people who either don’t know that it’s been discredited or they still believe what was reported in that study.”

In 2014, the number of measles cases in the U.S. peaked at 667, and fell to 189 in 2015, which is still a preliminary estimate, according to the CDC. The majority of those infected were not vaccinated.

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Measles is still common around the world, killing as many as 400 a day, and can spread quickly when an infected person visits the U.S.

According to the CDC, vaccines cannot be given to everyone in the U.S. If more people get vaccinated, less people are susceptible to disease.

“Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person. If one person in a community gets an infectious disease, he can spread it to others who are not immune,” according to the CDC website. “But a person who is immune to a disease because she has been vaccinated can’t get that disease and can’t spread it to others.”

This increase in cases has not been limited to the national stage. Wisconsin saw 53 mumps cases in 2014—up from zero in 2013 and the highest since 54 in 2007.

However, according to other data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, immunization percentages of the 24-month-old MMR vaccine have actually risen in more urban areas such as Milwaukee, Kenosha and Dane County since 2012.

But more rural counties such as Bayfield and Waushara have dropped substantially. Buffalo County went from 81 percent of 24-year-olds vaccinated with the MMR in 2012 to 76 percent last year. Other vaccinations in those counties have dropped off even more substantially.

Not vaccinating children can have effects besides them getting sick, according to Kita-Yarboro.

“It helps protect [children] from disease, personally. Vaccines can prevent disease completely, sometimes they don’t prevent completely but they make the disease more mild,” she said. “Getting vaccinated protects people around you. Especially with MMR it’s a live vaccine and so people who are immunocompromised can’t get it. And so then they’re vulnerable to that disease. And they really depend on the people around them to not have the disease.”

Wisconsin has an online immunization registry that offers vaccination information for individuals who provide a name, birthdate and social security number. The website lists all previous vaccinations and ones that are due.

Even if Wakefield’s MMR myth persists in Wisconsin and not everyone takes advantage of the life-saving shots, Public Health Madison and Dane County will ensure everyone has access to vaccines. They offer free vaccines to uninsured children and adults.

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