The happiest place on earth hasn’t been living up to its name in the last few weeks.
As of Jan. 26, the California Department of Public Health has confirmed a total of 73 cases in nine counties throughout California including San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, Alameda and Ventura. Of the total, 50 cases can be epidemiologically linked to Disneyland. Furthermore, the CDPH have linked 19 cases outside of California to Disney.
The outbreak has brought to light the severe public-health consequence of choosing not to get vaccines — especially when it comes to completely preventable diseases like the measles. Out of 42 patients with a known vaccination status, 34 were found to be unvaccinated. The patients were between the ages of 7 months to 70 years.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2000-2013 there were between 37 and 220 verified cases of the measles per year. However, in recent years there has been an increase in individuals infected with measles which CDC experts predominantly attribute to “spreading of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.”
We believe that it is imperative to consider the huge ramifications of not getting vaccinated, or vaccinating your children, especially as there is no scientific basis for people’s reasons not to vaccinate. According to health care practitioners and officials, the main reasons people choose not to vaccinate are fear that vaccines cause side effects. The most common concern is autism, even though this is scientifically unfounded according to the most recent immunization safety review and that the diseases are rare.
The problem with not getting vaccinated is not so much that you can contract the disease, but that infants who are not old enough for vaccinations have no protection. Likewise, a number of individuals cannot get vaccinations for a variety of reasons and they are not afforded the choice to protect themselves. In getting vaccinated, an individual contributes to what experts call “herd immunity”. This means, if a large enough portion of the population has been vaccinated and is immune, they can protect those individuals who haven’t developed defenses.
Infants can only get the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella combination vaccine (MMR) at 12 months, the second dose between 4-6 years of age. In those first months of life however, they are incredibly vulnerable and have no defenses to fend off the disease.
For this reason, we stress that everyone check their immunization records with their local health care provider to ensure that they are up to date — this is especially important for students planning on traveling out of the country.
Let us spread knowledge, not disease.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu