Vaccination Becomes Hot-Button Issue as Measles Outbreak Grows

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As the tally of measles cases linked to a California outbreak continues to climb, the issue of vaccinations has once again become a topic of heated discussion, prompting even the president to weigh in.

vaccine

As the tally of measles cases linked to a California outbreak continues to climb, the issue of vaccinations has once again become a topic of heated discussion, prompting even the president to weigh in.

A total of 102 people in 14 states have been infected with the virus, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 92% got the virus as a result of the outbreak that started at the Disneyland amusement park in December.

The 2015 total is already higher than the total number of cases reported in 5 of the last 10 years, according to CDC data. Over the past 15 years, the number of cases has exceed 200 only twice, in 2011 and last year. 2014 had by far the highest total in recent years, with 23 outbreaks causing 644 measles cases.

However, the recent California outbreak appears to have galvanized the public’s attention in a way earlier outbreaks have not, putting the anti-vaccine movement on the defensive.

According to the CDC, the measles-mumps-rubella Vaccine is 97% effective at preventing measles.

The issue came up in an interview President Obama gave before Sunday’s Super Bowl. When asked about the outbreak, Obama said there are no scientific reasons not to vaccinate one’s children.

“I just want people to know the facts and science and the information,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “And the fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent disease that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable.”

Meanwhile, likely presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the subject of quick criticism Monday after enunciating what seemed to be a more nuanced stance on the necessity of vaccines.

While traveling in England, Christie reportedly told journalists that “parents need some measure of choice” when it comes to vaccines, though he said he and his wife chose to have their children vaccinated.

Hours later, Christie’s office issued a statement clarifying the governor’s position.

“The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” said spokesman Kevin Roberts, in a press release.

The issue is also bubbling up in physicians’ offices. The Associated Press reported this weekend that “a small number” of physicians have begun refusing to see patients who refuse vaccinations due to the disproved notion that they cause Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The physicians argue such a policy will reduce the risk to their other patients and perhaps persuade parents to follow vaccine recommendations.

For its part, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians respect the wishes of parents, while also taking regular opportunities to remind parents of the importance of vaccines and the risks of not vaccinating their children.

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