By Cameron B.
If you have been paying any attention to the news in the past couple of months, you probably have heard about the measles outbreak.Along with this surge of measles, there have been many criticisms on the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, which arguably, helped lead to this epidemic. This article is here to give an overview of what happened during the measles outbreak.
Measles is a highly infectious disease, which is part of the reason why the disease is so dangerous. If you’re unvaccinated and you go within sneezing distance of an infected person, you immediately have a 90% chance of contracting the disease. Along with the high infectivity rate, infected people start showing symptoms two days after catching the disease. This is an issue because infected people can still spread the disease before showing any symptoms, which makes disease control challenging. Not only is the disease infectious, but it also can be deadly. Although it is highly unlikely to die from measles in a first-world country it still can happen from complications within the disease, which can be lethal.
The measles outbreak still happened, although an affordable and safe vaccine was, and still is available. The main reason behind this outbreak happening was the Anti-Vaxxing movement. This movement, that is mainly rooted in the USA and Canada, was backed by a singular 1998 The Lancet study linking the MMR vaccine to autism. Many other studies tried to replicate the results, to no prevail. The article was removed as the author admitted to deliberately falsifying the data for financial growth. But it was too late, the lie had set in and was magnified by conspiracies and concerns, none of which had any scientific grounds. Although this is the main cause, there are many other smaller causes behind this outbreak, such as partially protected Canadians that were born between 1970 and 1992. These Canadians were too old to get a second dose of the MMR vaccine, but too young to have natural-immunity from the pre-vaccination ages.
The reason why these people were such a risk was because they ruined our ‘herd immunity’. The goal with a herd immunity is not to get 100% immunization rate, but only 95%. In order for an outbreak to happen, the infected person must spread the disease to at least one other susceptible person. The issue is, in Canada our population is estimated to be 80-90% immune, which means that outbreaks are more likely to happen, and the Anti-Vaxxers aren’t helping. In the USA, requests to avoid getting the MMR vaccine has increased by 37%, and in Canada, where vaccinations are mandatory, opt-out rates are in the double digits. To top it off, a series of polls released in early February by Mainstreet Technologies found that 20% of respondents in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and 21% in Alberta believe that the MMR vaccine may cause autism.
A new study says that MMR vaccinations can also be beneficial. When a person contracts measles, the immune system weakens. Originally Measles was thought to weaken the immune system for weeks or months, but now it appears that this vulnerable period much longer than originally thought, up to three years. Now there is even a positive effect to the MMR vaccination (aside from making you nearly immune to measles).
The measles outbreak is over… for now. In order to prevent an outbreak in the future, we have to learn from the past. Get vaccinated so that everyone can have a safer, measles free future.