Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably heard of the recent measles outbreaks in the news. Reading headlines that state: “New York health commissioner: Deadly diseases like measles are coming back from the grave”[1], you might get the impression that the sky is falling and that the Black Plague of death will soon be upon us. All of this, thanks to silly “antivaxxers” – those misinformed loons who wear tinfoil hats and believe in conspiracy theories instead of medical science.

But hold on; what’s really going on here? Is all this pandemonium in the media really justified? Or are we dealing with a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign put on by the pharmaceutical industry to mandate vaccines for the masses? Let’s crunch some numbers and get to the bottom of this story.

Just how deadly is the measles in the United States?

Despite all the fear-mongering going on in the media of late, there have been less than a dozen deaths from the measles in the past 18 years in the United States – that’s less than 1 death per year, on average, from the measles[2]. Meanwhile, an estimated 250,000 people die each year in the United States due to medical error, and yet we hear almost nothing of this in the news[3]. So, this begs the question: Why are we freaking out about the recent measles outbreaks? And why the push for state legislation to mandate vaccinations?

The Media Narrative

The story in the news is that anti-vaccine sentiments are to blame for plummeting vaccination rates, and the consequent explosion of recent measles outbreaks. But is this really the case?

The following graph shows the number of measles cases reported each year during the past decade in the United States. It’s worth noting that measles incidence rates naturally ebb and flow with potential spikes every few years. It’s also important to note that measles infections peak in the late winter to spring (in other words, we are currently in peak measles season)[4]. Please decide for yourself if you think we are witnessing an unprecedented increase in measles cases worthy of all the media hysteria it has received. Keep in mind, there have been no deaths from measles so far this year; nor has there been any measles deaths last year, the year before that, or even the year before that year, in the United States.

So wait, is measles deadly or not?

Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 1963, almost all children (an entire birth cohort of about 4 million per year) got the measles. As far as I know, no one ever declared a state of emergency. This is because measles was seen as a relatively benign childhood illness – with a fatality rate of about 1 in 10,000 cases in the early 1960’s in the United States[5]. Compare that number to the present day 1 in 68 lifetime odds of dying from accidental drug poisoning[6], and you can see just how not-super-deadly the measles really was in the U.S., even before there was a vaccine for it.

That said, it is true that measles is a far more deadly infectious disease in developing countries (which is why global statistics are often used to incite the fear of death). But this is primarily due to gross malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation, and so on. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 111,000 people died from measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of 5 years[7]. But we must realize that “malnutrition, often associated with infection, is a primary or contributing cause of one-half of the deaths of young children under five years of age”[8]. In fact, malnutrition contributes to more than 3 million deaths annually in children under the age of five[9]. Giving a starving child a measles vaccine and pretending that we just saved their life may make us feel good about ourselves, but the reality is that world hunger – a completely preventable condition – is a far greater killer than measles could ever be if we are adequately nourished. If we really want to improve children’s lives in developing countries, maybe we should give them food and access to clean water before we start giving them vaccines.

But aren’t the recent measles outbreaks due to anti-vaccine propaganda that has led to lower vaccination rates?

I live in Oregon state, where legislation (HB 3063) has been proposed to remove all personal, philosophical, and religious exemptions for vaccination. Oregon currently has 10 confirmed cases of measles so far this year (only 4 of which are linked to the outbreak in Clark County, Washington)[10]. So, is this measles “outbreak” of 10 cases due to low vaccination rates?

Using data from the CDC, we can see that in the 2017-2018 school year, 93.2% of Oregon’s kindergarteners had received their MMR vaccinations. Looking at these MMR vaccination rates, I do not see any significant decline over the past decade.

But just so we have a point of reference, let’s compare Oregon’s present-day measles incidence with historical trends, to confirm whether we are seeing an unprecedented increase or not. The following graph shows the number of cases of measles in Oregon from 1988-2016 (the measles vaccine was first introduced in the United States in 1963, and two doses of MMR vaccine have been recommended since 1989). Are the 10 confirmed cases of measles in Oregon, so far this year, worthy of all the media hysteria it has received? (It looks to me like 1989-91 were bigger years for the measles in Oregon. In fact, I lived in Oregon in 1991 and I don’t remember hearing anything about the measles, so what gives?)

I think it’s also worth noting that, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the theoretical threshold for measles “herd immunity” is a vaccination rate between 92-94%. Oregon state’s kindergarteners already meet the measles “herd immunity” threshold with a 93.2% MMR vaccination rate, as previously noted.

Does this really add up?

So, 93.2% of Oregon’s kindergarteners have received their MMR vaccinations. We have had 10 cases of measles in Oregon so far this year. No one has died from measles in the United States in the past 3+ years, and less than a dozen people have died from the measles in the United States so far this century. Because of this, we now need to enact legislation to mandate vaccines for any children wanting access to a public education to protect the health and safety of our society from the “deadly” measles virus?

Does this really make sense to you? Because if it does, Big Pharma has some vaccines to sell you. In fact, they have about 70 doses of vaccines to recommend to your child[11]. Even better, they want to make you an offer that you literally cannot refuse. If HB 3063 passes into law, your child will not be allowed to go to a public or private school in Oregon if they are missing even a single required vaccine.

Imagine a liability-free, pharmaceutical product mandated by the government, and maybe then you can understand why pharmaceutical propaganda is infecting our news and media like the worst measles epidemic the world has ever seen.

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[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/02/13/cdc-measles-new-york-washington-outbreak-column/2813829002/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/appdx-full-e.pdf


[4] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/meas.html#epi

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236288/

[6] https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-mortality-risk

[7] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles

[8] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4613-9931-5_3

[9] https://www.unicefusa.org/press/releases/unicef-too-many-children-dying-malnutrition/8259

[10] https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/measles.aspx

[11] https://www.learntherisk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/vaccines-doses-details-8.5×11-inches-ltr.pdf