The Latest
April 13, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Measles Cases at a New High

A local doctor shares insights as to why it's foolish not to vaccinate your children.

Some “Anti-Vaxxers” still hold fast to the idea that vaccines cause disorders — like autism. In 1998, a British doctor published an article in a distinguished medical journal based upon a study that included only 12 children. The doctor’s claim? Vaccines cause autism. Only it’s not true. They don’t.

“It is widely accepted by the medical community that there is NO higher incidence of autism spectrum disorders among children who have been vaccinated than among children who have not,” says Elizabeth Burgos, M.D., a board certified family physician with Vanderbilt Medical Group who has been in practice in for more than 25 years.

Measles Cases at an All-New High

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Measles cases this year have climbed to 695, the highest number since the virus was eliminated almost two decades ago." The American Academy of Pediatrics urges families to vaccinate their children and lawmakers to make it harder to opt out of vaccine requirements for school entry.

Deemed eradicated from the United States in 2000, occasional outbreaks can and do occur when people traveling overseas return and spread it among the unvaccinated. According to the CDC, "Eighty-two people brought measles to the U.S. from other countries in 2018. This is the greatest number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000." In the U.S., 22 states have reported measles cases — including one confirmed case in Tennessee.

“We have been blessed in this country with access to vaccines that other countries only dream of,” Burgos says. “Children across the world are dying from measles and we must not let it resurge here in the United States when it is preventable,” she adds.

“Measles spreads quickly among unvaccinated people and can spread quickly from state to state,” Burgos adds.

Withholding Vaccines Very Risky

Measles, the acute upper respiratory virus that’s extremely contagious, infects an estimated 20 million people worldwide each year of whom 146,000 will die. Until the measles vaccine was licensed in the United States in 1963, Burgos says, an average of 549,000 measles cases and nearly 500 measles deaths were reported here. Even after several large studies were conducted overthrowing the 1998 notion that vaccines were related to autism, parents continued to be wary of them, even though nothing substantiated the idea.

Parents need to understand the grave risks of withholding vaccinations from their children, Burgos says.

“They are not only opening up their children to potentially fatal or disabling diseases, but they are also putting other children at risk who cannot receive live vaccines for medical reasons,” she says. Children, for example, who have leukemia or organ transplants and who can’t receive live vaccinations depend on the communities in which they live to be free from these diseases.

The Local Report

Burgos urges parents to vaccinate their children. While the incidences of measles is low in Middle Tennessee, that could change. There's been a steady increase in unvaccinated children in public schools. School immunization records indicate that in the 2017-18 school year were:

  • Davidson County: 95.3% fully immunized; 1.4% claimed religious exemption
  • Rutherford County: 96.6% fully immunized; 1.6% claimed religious exemption
  • Sumner County: 95.8% fully immunized; 2.2% claimedreligious exemption
  • Williamson County: 95.1% fully immunized; 2.8% claimed religious exemption

“Let us keep in mind that if we as a community do not remain vaccinated against measles, it will be the most vulnerable among us who will suffer," says Burgos. "This includes our babies younger than 12 months of age.”

About the Author