The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic

New York City has officially been declared to be under a public health emergency. In the city of Brooklyn, more than 250 cases of measles has occurred since September of 2018, with the majority of cases documented involve children under 18. According to the New York health code, a public health emergency entails that an “urgent public health action is necessary to protect the public health against an imminent or existing threat”.


Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and is marked by a red rash and symptoms like the common cold. Despite the common symptoms, there are heavy potential consequences that occur with this disease which include ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death at around one to three of every 1,000 infected individuals for cases in the U.S. Unfortunately, children under 5 have higher risks of contracting the disease and facing a higher probability of death.


While there is no treatment for the virus, doctors primarily treat the symptoms through hydration, antipyretics, and vitamin A therapies. With that in mind, the best way of measles prevention has consistently been through vaccines. The CDC highly recommends that children get two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine with the first dose at 12 through 15 months and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years of age.


While the majority of the United States has high levels of vaccine coverage over 90%, this recent outbreak of measles has been credited to the decreasing vaccination rates in certain areas. The cases have been heavily concentrated in specific communities of religious practices such as Orthodox Jewish communities. Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City placed out an order that the unvaccinated individuals residing in specific zip codes will be required to be vaccinated. Officials are now allowed to check vaccination records of those who have been in contact with measles and can fine up to $1000 for those that do not have the proper vaccine requirement. Prior to the Brooklyn mandate, there was another order in Rockland County that originally prevented unvaccinated children from public spaces for 30 days but was overturned by a New York judge.


In a research study published the Journal of Human Vaccination Immunotherapy in 2017, Ayelet Evrony and Arthur Caplan illustrated the danger of anti-vaccination groups infiltrating social media. The account documented a similar outbreak through Disneyland in 2014 which spread to around 50 individuals. Certain groups out there such as “A Voice for Choice” illustrates the mission of “promoting people's rights to be fully informed about the composition, quality, and short- and long-term health effects of food and pharmaceutical products.” A Voice for Choice discourages vaccinations and promotes theories that have been widely misproven through unsubstantiated, non-peer reviewed literature.  


On Facebook groups as well, there are plenty of anti-vaccination groups with more than 150,000 approved members. In the Facebook groups, there are incredibly falsified claims as well such as Vitamin C being more effective than vaccines. Facebook has now been attempting to reduce health-related misinformation and is looking to announce changes that will occur within their platform soon. Recently, Pinterest stopped showing results for anti-vaccine cases and Youtube is working on reduced recommendations for anti-vaccination videos as well.


Vaccine hesitancy is now listed as one of the top 10 global threats by the World Health Organization and should not be taken lightly. Keep in mind that vaccines not only ensure the health of your child but of your community as well.