On Nov. 9, Columbus, Ohio’s public health officials released a statement that they were investigating 4 cases of measles at a child care facility. According to WBNS10, one of the children ended up in intensive care. Thankfully, that child had been released home. All four cases were in unvaccinated children with no history of traveling out of the United States. At the time this brought the total number of official cases logged in Ohio since June 2022 to eight. To put this into perspective, Ohio had not had a confirmed case of measles since 2019.
On Nov. 16, literally one week after that initial announcement, that measles spread has reached seven Ohio child care centers and one school. There are now 18 confirmed cases. All of the cases are children, at least 15 of whom are under the age of 4. ArsTechnica reports that they have confirmed at least six of those children required hospitalization.
Again: All of these children were unvaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children “should get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.” Unvaccinated means these children didn’t even get their first dose.
Public health under the Republican Party has been terrible. The COVID-19 pandemic only served as a political football for the GOP to kick around in lieu of offering up real leadership. When your entire platform is dismantling government’s ability to provide its citizens support, the only thing you can offer up are fake science legislation allowing discredited treatments like hydroxychloroquine to seem like a salve for a lack of better public health policy.
For years now, various communities with low vaccination rates have seen measles outbreaks. The reasoning these communities have low vaccination rates is because they have been fed a steady diet of terrible medical information from people with fancy names but not fancy brains, like Robert Kennedy Jr., that has told them things like the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine causes autism. It doesn’t. Every single study, done over and over and over again, has shown that the MMR vaccine is safe. The study that anti-vaxxers funded to prove this pretend connection ended up proving, like the rest of the scientific studies done on the subject, that there was not connection between MMR and autism.
Do you know what many of those studies have shown? The kids whose parents decide to skip their child’s MMR vaccine have worse health outcomes and are more prone to various illnesses than their vaccinated counterparts. So it is more than simply protecting our communities from easily immunized diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella.
But you would not know that with Republican officials calling vaccines “sorcery,” and saying childhood illnesses like measles are easily treated with “antibiotics and that kind of stuff.” Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic has given Republican leadership, like Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a renewed license to misinform the public about the efficacy and importance of vaccines. This kind of right-wing anti-science propaganda has led to new measles outbreaks in various communities over the past few years. These are outbreaks that many infectious disease specialists thought we were long passed in our country.
Since 2012, Ohio’s school age children’s vaccination rates have dropped. In 2012, children entering the Ohio school system were vaccinated against the measles at a 96.1%. In the 2020-2021 class, that number was 89.6%. The largest decrease has come since 2019. Spokesperson for Columbus Public Health Kelli Newman told ArsTechnica, “MMR vaccines are very safe and highly effective at preventing measles. We offer walk-in MMR vaccines at Columbus Public Health Monday through Friday every week. We have not seen an uptick here on MMR vaccinations yet from what we usually do, but that is not indicative of uptake overall since we do not know what is being given by providers in the community.”
The one thing we know about the anti-vaxxer movement is that this outbreak will attract them the same way desperation always attracts charlatans.
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