Quotes of the day

Last Wednesday, the number was 59. Nine days later, there are 91 cases of measles in California.

The California Department of Public Health sent out the latest numbers Friday of confirmed cases since December and while the total is still small, the jump was a startling 54% in just more than a week

The new numbers include two cases in Marin County, near San Francisco, where one parent of a 6-year-old has asked school officials to bar any children who have not been vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)…

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, which means it is no longer native to the United States but continues to be brought in by international travelers.


A New York college student with measles boarded an Amtrak station from Penn Station earlier this week and may have exposed other passengers to the contagious virus.

The student at Bard College in Dutchess County took Amtrak train #283 from Penn Station to Albany, according to state health officials. He got off in Rhinecliff, N.Y.

He has been isolated during his recovery, said officials with the college…

“In order to prevent the spread of illness, DOH is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with measles to call their health care providers or a local emergency room BEFORE going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness,” said a statement from the New York State Department of Health.


There were 644 new measles cases in 27 states last year, according to the CDC. That’s the biggest annual number we’ve seen in nearly a quarter-century. The vast majority of people who contracted the disease were unvaccinated, including the dozens of cases related to an outbreak at Disneyland in Orange County, California, which is basically Ground Zero in our current epidemic of anti-vaccine hysteria.

A 2014 AP-GfK survey found that only 51 percent of Americans were confident that vaccines are safe and effective, which is similar to the proportion who believe that houses can be haunted by ghosts.


Concern about the highly contagious disease intensified Friday in several states, including Minnesota, where health officials are notifying hundreds of people who may have come into contact with a University of Minnesota student with measles…

“The very large outbreaks we’ve seen around the world often started with a small number of cases,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Officials in three counties in the Phoenix area — Maricopa, Gila and Pinal — have already asked residents who have not been vaccinated and who might have been exposed to stay home from school, work or day care for 21 days. Schools in some other states are considering more formal bans on unvaccinated children.

“This is a critical point in this outbreak,” the Arizona state health director, Will Humble, wrote on his blog. Any missed cases, he wrote, could cause “a long and protracted outbreak.”


At the same time, persuading skeptical parents to vaccinate their children has grown more difficult because concerns about a possible link between vaccines and autism—now debunked by science—have expanded to more general, and equally groundless, worries about the effects of multiple shots on a child’s immune system, vaccine experts and doctors say…

The vast majority of cases are in Southern California. In some schools in the San Diego area, 20% to 30% of children are not immunized, said Mark Sawyer, professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Often, these schools are in upper middle class neighborhoods, such as San Diego’s North Coastal community, he said. “It’s because these people are highly educated and they get on the Internet and read things and think they can figure things out better than their physician. That’s a universal phenomenon around the country,” he said. “People who come to the U.S. from other countries are very compliant [with vaccination] because they come from places where measles is still seen.”…

Typically, he brings an autism expert from UCSD to talk about the disease and the lack of a link to the MMR vaccine. But parents’ concerns these days have moved beyond just autism, he said. “It’s morphed into a more generic concern that maybe we’re overwhelming the immune system with all these vaccines, maybe there are other side effects, maybe we don’t need all these vaccines,” he said, calling these fears unfounded. The seminars, he said, are only “moderately attended.”


Carl Krawitt has watched his son, Rhett, now 6, fight leukemia for the past 4 1/2 years. For more than three of those years, Rhett has undergone round after round of chemotherapy. Last year he finished chemotherapy, and doctors say he is in remission…

Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what’s known as herd immunity…

Now Krawitt and his wife, Jodi, have emailed the district’s superintendent, requesting that the district “require immunization as a condition of attendance, with the only exception being those who cannot medically be vaccinated.”…

“When your immune system isn’t working as well, it allows many different infections to be worse,” Goldsby said. “It’s not just Rhett. There are hundreds of other kids in the Bay Area that are going through cancer therapy, and it’s not fair to them. They can’t get immunized; they have to rely on their friends and colleagues and community to help protect them.”


[T]here are children like my Maggie.  These are child who can’t be vaccinated.  Children who have cancer.  Children who are immunocompromised.  Children who are truly allergic to a vaccine or part of a vaccine (i.e anaphylaxis to egg).  These children remain at risk.  They cannot be protected … except by vaccinating people around them. In August of 2014, Maggie was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of childhood leukemia. We have been fighting leukemia since then…

It was Wednesday.  Maggie had just been discharged from Phoenix Children’s Hospital after finishing her latest round of chemotherapy.  That afternoon she went to the PCH East Valley Specialty Clinic for a lab draw.  Everything went fine, and we were feeling good … until Sunday evening when we got the call.  On Wednesday afternoon, Anna, Maggie, and Eli had been exposed to measles by another patient.  Our two kids lacked the immunity to defend against measles.  The only protection available was multiple shots of rubeola immune globulin (measles antibodies).  There were three shots for Maggie and two shots for Eli.  They screamed, but they now have some temporary protection against measles.  We pray it is enough.

Unvaccinating parent, thanks for screwing up our three week “vacation” from chemotherapy.  Instead of a break, we get to watch for measles symptoms and pray for no fevers (or back to the hospital we go).  Thanks for making us cancel our trip to the snow this year.  Maggie really wanted to see snow, but we will not risk exposing anyone else.  On that note, thanks for exposing 195 children to an illness considered ‘eliminated’ from the U.S.  Your poor choices don’t just affect your child.  They affect my family and many more like us.


With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.

“Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they’re not just putting their kids at risk, but they’re also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room,” the Los Angeles pediatrician said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by a small number of doctors who in recent years have “fired” patients who continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism. They hope the strategy will lead parents to change their minds; if that fails, they hope it will at least reduce the risk to other children in the office…

Some mothers who have been dropped by their doctors feel “betrayed and upset,” said Dotty Hagmier, founder of the support group Moms in Charge. She said these parents made up their minds about vaccines after “careful research and diligence to understand the risks versus the benefits for their own children’s circumstances.”


Members of the anti-vaccine movement said the public backlash had terrified many parents. “People are now afraid they’re going to be jailed,” said Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a clearinghouse for resisters. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s gotten so out of hand, and it’s gotten so vicious.”

“A lot of people here have personal beliefs that are faith based,” said John Carroll, the school superintendent, who sent a letter home to parents last week encouraging them to vaccinate their children. The faith, Mr. Carroll said, is not so much religious as it is a belief that “they raise their children in a natural, organic environment” and are suspicious of pharmaceutical companies and big business.

Some parents forgo shots altogether. Others split vaccine doses or stretch out their timeline, worried about somehow overwhelming their children’s immune system. Kelly McMenimen, a Lagunitas parent, said she “meditated on it a lot” before deciding not to vaccinate her son Tobias, 8, against even “deadly or deforming diseases.” She said she did not want “so many toxins” entering the slender body of a bright-eyed boy who loves math and geography.

Tobias has endured chickenpox and whooping cough, though Ms. McMenimen said the latter seemed more like a common cold. She considered a tetanus shot after he cut himself on a wire fence but decided against it: “He has such a strong immune system.”


I experienced this myself when I wrote a few things on Twitter about how I believe parents shouldn’t be compelled in either direction when it comes to vaccines. I wasn’t even questioning vaccines themselves, just the validity and constitutionality of requiring them or punishing those who don’t get them. Admittedly, Twitter isn’t necessarily the best place for nuanced discussions, and only a few of the responses consisted of “I hope you die, motherf**ker” type sentiments, but I was still treated to an assortment of fallacious comebacks. And I discovered that a very large number of people, many of them ostensibly “small government conservatives” and even self-described libertarians, believe that choice should not play a role here at all

In short, as we have seen time and time again, despite Ben Franklin’s urges to the contrary, many people will choose safety over liberty, no matter how slight the risk and how serious the infringement. But while they worry about a potential public health emergency, I worry that the Salem witch trial mentality has created a constitutional emergency.

Some will take issue with me calling it a “slight risk,” but it is slight. Even in Disneyland, ground zero of this measles outbreak, 95 have been infected out of the 15 million who’ve attended the park in the last year. And for those who contract the illness, it will almost assuredly not be fatal (yes, I know it can be, but I said almost because the fatality rate is so low). The risk is slight by every definition…

The flu kills far more people than the measles, and it’s very contagious. Should it be required? Should the Non-Flu-Shot Kids be kicked out of class until they get that stuff injected into their bodies? Even if it’s ineffective? Should we all be required? I’ve never had a flu shot, should I be convicted of some kind of crime? As I said, my son got the shot recently. On Wednesday he was back at the doctor with a fever and respiratory problems. We were told that these were entirely unrelated, but I think next year we will be declining the procedure. I know it doesn’t protect against every strand of the flu, but this is a medical decision and a personal judgment call, and I am repulsed at the notion that I shouldn’t have the right to make it.


As it happens, there are affluent pockets of that county where the fraction of schoolchildren whose parents have cited a “personal belief” to exempt them from vaccinations is higher than the statewide average of 2.5 percent. That’s also true of some affluent pockets of the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

It used to be that unvaccinated children in America were clustered in impoverished neighborhoods; now they’re often clustered among sophisticates in gilded ZIP codes where a certain strain of health faddishness reigns. According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter last year, the parents of 57 percent of the children at a Beverly Hills preschool and of 68 percent at one in Santa Monica had filed personal-belief exemptions from having their kids vaccinated…

But this subject has been studied and studied and studied, and it’s abundantly clear that we’re best served by vaccinating all of those children who can be, so that the ones who can’t be — for medical reasons such as a compromised immune system — are protected…

We rightly govern what people can and can’t do with guns, seatbelts, drugs and so much more, all in the interest not just of their welfare but of everybody’s. Are we being dangerously remiss when it comes to making them wear the necessary armor against illnesses that belong in history books?