Bioethics Blogs

Don’t Weasel Out of the Measles Vaccine

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

By now, you have most likely been inundated with news about the measles outbreak tied to Disneyland in California. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there have been 102 cases of the measles linked to Disneyland through either primary exposure (they were exposed directly) or secondary exposure (they were exposed to someone who had primary exposure) in 14 states. The state of Arizona alone is monitoring over 1,000 people at risk.

The latest turn in this continuing debate is parents of immune-comprised children begging their neighbors to immunize their children. For valid medical reasons—whether a child is too young, the child has an allergy to components of the vaccine, or whether the child has an immunity issue—a percent of children are unable to take the measles (technically MMR-Measles, Mumps & Rubella) vaccine. These children depend on everyone else in public being immunized to prevent the spread of the infection. This notion is called herd immunity, if a certain percent of the population is immunized, then the microorganism does not have enough hosts to cause a problem. If all of the people around a person are immunized, then the risk of infection is severely reduced. In other words, they are protected by everyone else being immunized.

Parent in California and another in Arizona have explained how both their children have leukemia and as a result of treatment have weakened immune systems. The vaccine response that causes most of us to develop antibodies to the infectious agent would overwhelm these children and cause them to have severe sickness if not death.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.