One of the many advantages of not living in the Dark Ages is that we now have vaccines to eradicate diseases that long plagued a helpless population. Still, there are those who choose not to vaccinate. However, after the latest case of measles hit close to home here in Suffolk County, everyone needs to take another look at these important preventative measures. In fact, it’s time for a vaccine mandate.
Measles, which is considered to be one of the most contagious diseases in the world, was eradicated nearly two decades ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those inflicted experience high fever, rash, and in some cases swelling in the brain. Before the vaccine became available in 1963, it is estimated that between 400-500 people perished from it annually.
Since the vaccine of the 1960s was improved upon a decade later, the incidence of the disease waned, even though there was a resurgence of measles in the U.S. from 1989 to 1991 that resulted in over 130 deaths. However, by 2000 with only 86 reported cases, the disease was considered eradicated. Between 2000 and 2007, the U.S. recorded an average of only 63 cases of measles a year
So what’s happening now?
The CDC has confirmed that there are 704 new cases of measles this week. That’s the largest number of cases since 1994. They added that nearly three-quarters of those cases have occurred in people who have not been vaccinated against the disease.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) is given at the age of 1 and then again around age 5 or just before attending school. It’s been proven to be the best way to prevent these diseases from occurring. So, not being vaccinated will invariably put innocent people at risk.
This week, Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone released a statement noting that he supports a bill to promote more vaccine awareness. NYS legislators are even moving toward a bill that would mandate the measles vaccine for all school-age children, eliminating non-medical exemptions. It’s an important move to ensure that measles will once again be wiped away. We can’t allow this disease – or any other, for that matter, where vaccines are available – to reemerge to possibly epidemic proportions. If not, what’s next? Polio?
It’s time to come out of the Dark Ages.