Rite of Passage: Measles Vaccine for Adults

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Oh, great. Another measles outbreak in the U.S. It was just earlier this winter that there were 187 cases in New York. How many has it been since Jan. 1? Hmmm…79 cases across 10 states. Compared to last year’s total of 372 cases in the U.S., it looks like 2019 may be a record year. I should have gotten the vaccine when I was a kid, but it wasn’t what my parents wanted. Now that I can legally make my own medical decisions, do they even have a measles vaccine for adults?

It’s curious how one of the oldest diseases known to man can still be around today. They can put a man on the moon, but can’t eradicate a virus that’s been in recorded history since 9th century Persia? Well, even the wonders of modern medicine still rest on the back of human will, trust, and compliance.

Oh, I just found out it’s the same vaccine for kids and adults. Hmmm… not sure I would ever tell my parents if I did get vaccinated… it could disappoint them.

I guess I should get the vaccine…wait, do I have a fever? Maybe it’s already too late…

Okay, hypochondriac, just chill out.

Alright, so what if I get measles. I mean, who cares, right? I deal with some discomfort for a while – What are the symptoms again? Fever, cough, runny nose, small white spots inside the mouth, a silly looking rash? I can deal with those.

Oh wait…there’s more. Diarrhea, ear infection…pneumonia? Seizures? Blindness? Inflammation of the brain? Death? Woah, maybe I should get the vaccine…

With all the controversy that’s been generated, it’s hardly my parent’s fault for not vaccinating me. After the article came out in the Lancet in 1998 from Dr. Andrew Wakefield supposedly linking the MMR vaccine and autism, what were they supposed to do as parents? The short question everyone was asking was this: what’s worse, have autism from the vaccine or die from the disease? But that’s not really fair, is it? No one was really well-versed in the probability of either. The study itself focused only on 12 children who were hand-picked from a much larger group. As it turned out, the study was retracted in 2004 by ten of the twelve authors themselves, citing that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”. But no matter, the word was now out there that someone thought this vaccine was inherently “bad”. Despite millions of dollars of studies to prove the vaccine safe, many had already made up their mind. And it has been just enough to keep doubt in mine.

Something that everyone seems to gloss over is the fact that Wakefield himself was never an anti-vaxxer. He just supported administering the vaccines individually, one at a time, instead of in groups like the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine. Ironically, the measles vaccine was offered briefly as a single vaccine, but manufacturers took it off the market.

But I am just not sure…

I’ve read the numbers on the vaccine…and the disease itself. Know your enemy, you know?

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. If I’m just standing in the same room with someone who has measles, it’s 90% likely I’ll get it since I haven’t been vaccinated. Even if I was vaccinated, there is still a chance I’d be one of the 3% in whom the vaccine doesn’t trigger a good immune response. That would leave me no better off than not getting the vaccine. When you read the stories of how many people get measles even though they had the vaccine, it seems like a lot more than just 3%. I guess it’s like how you only hear stories about the few people who win the lottery, not the multitudes that don’t.

Okay, so the vaccine is pretty effective. I mean, before the vaccine, ~2.6 million people around the world died every year from measles. In 2017, mortality due to the disease was down to 110,000 mostly unvaccinated individuals. And, sadly, most of these are children under the age  of 5.

Measles is considered a prime target for eradication because the vaccine IS so effective. There are many (including the World Health Organization) who believe that measles can be a thing of the past just like smallpox, but that means even more widespread vaccination.

Even for the 3% that aren’t effectively vaccinated, they say “herd immunity” is key. That’s an uncomplimentary way of saying that if I get the vaccine and it is effective in me, that’s one less person to get sick and pass it on to someone who isn’t immune.

But if I get the  vaccine, what about the adverse reactions it might have on me? I mean, I have to look out for me too, right?

And if I don’t get vaccinated and I get the disease, I might be the cause of someone else getting sick, or even dying? And considering those who are most affected… kids under 5. Wow, no guilt-pressure there…

My mind is made up. After considering all of the facts, I’ve realized that the best decision is for me to…