In the 20th Century, medical science perfected vaccines for polio, smallpox, and MMR: measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). Governments and health officials around the world adopted eradication programs to vaccinate every human against these deadly diseases.
Polio was once a disease feared worldwide, striking suddenly and paralysing mainly children for life. WHO is a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the largest private-public partnership for health, which has reduced polio by 99%. Polio now survives only among the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, where it stalks the most vulnerable children. WHO: 10 facts on polio eradication.
Smallpox was one of the world’s most devastating diseases known to humanity. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977. It was declared eradicated in 1980 following a global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization. WHO: Smallpox eradication.
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. WHO: Measles. Approximately 110,000 people died from measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
And why is that? The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine:
There have been recent trends of parents in Western countries refusing to vaccinate their children due to numerous reasons and perceived fears. While opposition to vaccines is as old as the vaccines themselves, there has been a recent surge in the opposition to vaccines in general, specifically against the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, most notably since the rise in prominence of the notorious British ex-physician, Andrew Wakefield, and his works. This has caused multiple measles outbreaks in Western countries where the measles virus was previously considered eliminated.
You may have read that there has been a major measles outbreak in Washington state this year, largely to blame on the “anti-vaxxer” movement. Which brings us to the anti-science backwater of the Republican-led Arizona legislature.
Bruce Yee, Associate Professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, writes at Forbes, 65 Measles Cases In Washington, Yet Arizona May Expand Vaccine Exemptions:
Raising Arizona is a fictional movie. Raising Arizona vaccination rates is something that’s needed for real. So what then do you think the Arizona state legislature should do?
Before you answer this question, here’s a reminder of what is occurring outside Arizona. The case count for the ongoing Washington measles outbreak has now reached 65. The state of Washington legislature is considering two new bills that would pull back the option of parents from opting out of vaccination for “philosophical” reasons. In Madagascar since last September, over 900 people have died from a measles outbreak that emerged due to low measles vaccination rates.
With all of that under consideration, here is the question again: what do you think the Arizona state legislature should do? How about pass three bills that would expand vaccine exemption categories and make it easier to get a vaccine exemption by removing the current requirement that parents sign a state health department form, as reported by Stephanie Innes for the Arizona Republic?
Huh? The Grand Canyon may not be the only big gap in Arizona. Pushing these three bills through would seem like a huge gap between what is being done and what is truly needed. The state of Washington had to declare a statewide emergency and has already spent over a million dollars of taxpayer money dealing with the measles outbreak. All scientific evidence suggests that lower vaccination rates in Clark County, Washington, led to the outbreak. Therefore, the focus in Washington has been trying to increase vaccination rates.
You would think that other states, like Arizona, would learn from the Washington example, would look for ways to increase vaccination rates.
And you would be wrong.
Arizona may have the lowest measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination rates in the country at 84.1%, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey as Claire Cleveland and Jessi Schultz reported for the Cronkite News Service. Such a rate would be well below the 95% critical immunization threshold needed to prevent the measles virus from more readily spreading in a population, as I described previously for Forbes.
Yet, despite all of this, Nancy K. Barto, a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives has sponsored House Bills 2470, 2471, and 2472 that could end up further lowering vaccination rates in Arizona. Paul Boyer, a Republican member of the Arizona State Senate, co-sponsored all three bills, which on Thursday, passed the Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee via a 5 to 4 vote. All five committee members voting for the bills were Republican and all four voting against were Democrats. If voting in the general legislature (where the Republicans hold the majority in both the Senate and the House) follows similar party lines, the trio of bills have a good chance of passing.
House Bill 2470 essentially would make it easier to get a vaccine exemption by changing the current language of the relevant Arizona law. This certainly won’t help increase vaccination rates and could lower them, making the low vaccine coverage problem and the risk of disease outbreaks even worse. This is also exactly opposite to what is being considered in the Washington state legislature.
Speaking of worsening problems. Doctors are already overloaded with paperwork, spending, based on a study I covered for Forbes, around two-thirds of their precious time shuffling and filling out forms. Well, doctors in Arizona, get ready for potentially more paperwork. House Bill 2471 would require doctors and other health professionals to provide more information about vaccines, beyond what they already provide, before administering a vaccine. Legitimate scientific and health organizations like the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC, and the World Health Organization, already provide a plethora of information on vaccine, and there is something called the Internet that allows you to access this information. Plus, you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist for such information if you so desire. Requiring your doctor to provide additional information as a routine will create more paperwork and potentially more litter.
Moreover, why make this requirement for vaccination, an intervention that has abundance of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy and safety, and not other health interventions? For example, a New England Journal of Medicine study estimated that around 23,000 emergency departments visits occur in the U.S. every year due to adverse events related to dietary supplements. As I have written previously for Forbes, studies have found unapproved ingredients in a number of different supplements.
House Bill 2472 also has the potential of adding more problems. This bill wants to give patients the option of getting an antibody titer test to check for immunity before a vaccine is administered. The trouble is antibody tests certainly are not perfect measures of immunity. They only test what may be in your blood that specific day and not in the future. False positives are possible, especially for diseases that are rare, because others have been vaccinated. For example, other viruses can lead to a positive IgM test for rubella. False negatives are also possible. Your test can be negative, even if you are protected. Then, there’s the cost of these additional tests.
If vaccination rates remain where they are at based on the CDC survey or worse get even lower, Arizona could very well be a sequel of what’s currently occurring in Washington. And as often is the case with movies, the sequel could be worse.
Enter Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, but not among the anti-science, “anti-vaxxer” regressive Republicans in the Arizona legislature. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Ducey declares Arizona ‘pro-vaccination’ state, vows to kill vaccine exemption bills:
Gov. Doug Ducey promised today he will not sign several controversial bills moving through the Legislature that could lead to fewer children being vaccinated.
Ducey said he will not sign any legislation that goes against promoting vaccinations.
“I’m pro-vaccination and anti-measles,” he said.
Specifically, Ducey was referring to three bills proposed by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, although he didn’t address the measures individually.
The bills would:
Expand vaccination exemptions and eliminate a requirement that parents sign a state form in order for their kids to receive an exemption
Require doctors to offer parents a blood test to determine if their child is already immune
Require parents to be given extensive information about the risks of vaccines, including information that is typically reserved for doctors
“I think it’s important for people to know that we are pro-vaccination in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said. “Vaccinations are good for our kids and helpful for public health.”
Ducey’s strongly worded statements were a deviation from his tendency to avoid commenting on pending legislation before it arrives on his desk. And he acknowledged that, saying he felt the need to speak out because vaccinations are a matter of public health.
The governor’s statement likely indicates he would veto the bills if they got to his desk because inaction on his part could cause the bills to become law.
* * *
The bills have not yet passed the House, but Ducey made it clear that the measures are ultimately doomed, regardless of the Legislature’s actions.
But Barto’s bills have stirred controversy and concern because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed 101 cases of measles from 10 states so far this year, largely among people who either have not had the vaccine or did not have the second dose.
A public health emergency was declared in January in the state of Washington in January, where there have been 55 confirmed cases, virtually all of those in children whose parents had chosen not to vaccinate them.
Some who spoke out against Barto’s bills in committee feared Arizona could become the next state for a measles outbreak if the measures were to become law.
Ducey has become a stronger voice for childhood vaccinations in recent months, saying on the campaign trail that all children should be inoculated against a host of diseases ranging from measles to chickenpox and mumps.
The governor hasn’t gone so far as to say the state should repeal a provision in law that allows residents to avoid vaccinations for personal reasons. But he has previously said that idea is worth reviewing if increased public education about vaccinations doesn’t increase vaccination rates.
Wait for it … cue the very special kind of crazy that is regressive Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa). Governor Doug Ducey is a communist! State Rep. Kelly Townsend says mandatory vaccinations are ‘Communist’:
One day after Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he was “pro-vaccination,” Townsend, a Mesa Republican, wrote that she’d heard about proposals to “force” people in Arizona to be vaccinated.
“The idea that we force someone to give up their liberty for the sake of the collective is not based on American values but rather, Communist (sic),” she wrote.
Note: The above photo of this publicity-seeking regressive Republican is from her earlier cry for attention. Arizona lawmaker draws teardrops on her face to protest abortion bill: Townsend’s post on Facebook doesn’t make clear whether she’s aware of the gang-affiliation of teardrop tattoos, but in a phone interview she said she is aware of the connotation. Townsend said the teardrops were a “visible reminder of how sad it is that some advocate for infanticide.” Literally no one advocates for “infanticide,” defined as “the crime of killing a child within a year of birth.” Although an infant with measles could very well die from the disease, so maybe anti-vaxxers do in their own peculiar way (“it’s God’s will“).
Disregarding warnings from health officials, the state House Health and Human Services Committee last week endorsed three bills that could lead to lower immunization coverage among Arizona’s schoolchildren.
“Our country is sovereign, our State is sovereign, our family is sovereign, our God is sovereign and the most holy and sacred last frontier of sovereignty is our own body,” Townsend wrote. “Folks, I am going to ask you to educate your children, educate your family, educate those around you about the fundamentals of liberty and what that means. It seems we have lost those fundamentals along the way and are chasing our fears.”
This sounds very much like the philosophy of the sovereign citizen movement, a far-right anti-government extremist movement. Is there something you would like to share, Rep. Townsend?
Vaccines are endorsed by every major public health organization in the world, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The World Health Organization cited “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019, saying it threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents two to three million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved,” a WHO statement says.
Townsend, who served in the U.S.Navy and was once a birth doula, wrote that she is going to insist that more money and time be spent “on discovering what in these vaccines is causing so much injury.”
The California Legislature in 2015 eliminated all non-medical vaccine exemptions following a measles outbreak at Disneyland that affected seven Arizona residents. The rate of vaccinated schoolchildren in California has since increased.
A similar measure introduced this session in the Arizona Legislature by Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, did not get assigned to a committee and appears to have died.
Laurie Roberts of The Republic laments today, Is there a vaccine for Rep. Townsend’s crazy?
Arizona definitely needs a vaccine against anti-science regressive Republicans. Vote extremists like Kelly Townsend out of office.
UPDATE 3/4/19: The latest evidence unequivocally denying any link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella — a two-dose course that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is 97 percent effective — came Monday in a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The findings show that the vaccine does not increase the risk of autism, lending new statistical certainty to what was already medical consensus. The researchers further concluded that vaccination is not likely to trigger the developmental disorder in susceptible populations and is not associated with a clustering of cases appearing after immunization.
“The appropriate interpretation is that there’s no association whatsoever,” Saad Omer, a professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University, said in an interview with The Washington Post.Measles vaccine doesn’t cause autism, says a decade-long study of half a million people.
UPDATE: As a measles outbreak spreads across the U.S., Lewis Black lays into anti-vaxxer parents and proposes a solution for kids whose parents won’t let them get vaccinated, in Back in Black – Social Media Helps Measles Make a Comeback | The Daily Show.