The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) says it is alarmed that in January 2015 alone, more than 100 people from 14 states in the U.S. have been reported as having measles. When parents elect not to vaccinate their children based on their personal beliefs, which are most often guided by misinformation about the safety of vaccines, the risk for resurgence and spread of measles increases. Measles, once thought eliminated from the U.S., is a serious disease that can cause health complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis and even death.
Vaccines provide enormous value in protecting individuals and populations from measles and other serious and life-threatening infections. Scientific evidence has demonstrated many times their overall safety. Children are far more likely to be harmed by measles than by the vaccine that prevents it.
There are many choices individuals make for their own or their children’s health. However, because vaccines can both protect the individual and prevent diseases from spreading from one person to another, individual choices on vaccination not only affect the individual but also others in the community. Vaccines like the measles vaccine (MMR) are most effective when a substantial proportion of a population is immunized, reducing continued transmission of disease. The more people in the community who are vaccinated, the greater the community benefits resulting from vaccination. In particular, for some vaccines high vaccination rates in the population can provide indirect protection for vulnerable persons who are not able to be vaccinated due to underlying medical conditions such as weakened immune systems, young age, or pregnancy. To achieve optimal levels of this community-level protection for diseases like measles and pertussis, a very high proportion of the population must be vaccinated.
IDSA says it supports universal immunization of children, adolescents, and adults, according to the recommendations and standards established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC). These recommendations are based on current scientific evidence and take into account all information related to disease occurrence, transmission, seriousness, vaccine efficacy and safety. Further, IDSA strongly encourages states to enact and enforce laws requiring children to be fully immunized as a requirement for school or day care. Exemptions should be allowed only for validated medical contraindications.
Public policy must reflect medical and scientific evidence. The IDSA urges parents to ensure that their children are up to date with all recommended immunizations, including with the MMR vaccine, to prevent this serious disease from causing severe disability and death.