For most of us, measles and whooping cough are diseases of the past. You get a few shots as a kid and then hardly think about them again. But that’s not the case in all parts of the world — not even parts of the U.S. Measles has made a comeback, Diseases that are and have been avoidable in the U.S. thanks to vaccines, are resurfacing all across the country. Measles, for instance, was considered wiped out in 2000, but there have been several outbreaks in the past few years.
The emergence of these diseases — especially measles — is alarming, and mostly due to parents in the U.S. not vaccinating their kids. “If you are unvaccinated and you come in contact with measles, there’s a 90% chance you will get it,” says a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Though measles outbreaks are primarily linked to unvaccinated people,noting that some vaccines aren’t foolproof. For example, the whooping-cough vaccine may lose its efficacy over time. And, overall, most people do get their vaccinations. A CDC report looking at children entering kindergarten for the 2012–13 school year in all U.S. states found that more than 90% of these kids had their vaccines.
It’s not just measles, either; cases of meningitis and pertussis (whooping cough) are persisting as well. The most vulnerable to these diseases are infants, children with compromised immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. As more children enter the school system without being vaccinated — in Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont, for example, 4.5 percent of kindergartners were not vaccinated for non-medical reasons — A CDC report looking at children entering kindergarten for the 2012–13 school year in all U.S. states found that more than 90% of these kids had their vaccines-experts say the number of cases will continue to rise.
Still, there are people — including public figures and celebrities — who don’t vaccinate their kids and promote their choices. Most infamously, Jenny McCarthy has espoused her antivaccination position because she believes vaccines are full of toxins and cause autism. When she recently posed a question on Twitter about finding a mate, the vaccination backlash was loud and clear. Though measles outbreaks are primarily linked to unvaccinated people.
The chances of your child getting a case of measles or chickenpox or whooping cough might be quite low today. But vaccinations are not just for protecting ourselves, and are not just for today. They also protect the people around us (some of whom may be unable to get certain vaccines, or might have failed to respond to a vaccine, or might be susceptible for other reasons). And they also protect our children’s children and their children by keeping diseases that we have almost defeated from making a comeback. What would happen if we stopped vaccinations? We could soon find ourselves battling epidemics of diseases we thought we had conquered decades ago. You can help defend against these diseases by making sure that you and your family are up to date on vaccines so measles, pertussis, and diphtheria can’t make a comeback in your home.