Amidst a rash of efforts to bring forward mandatory vaccination in pockets of the United States is the recent move in New York City to declare a public health emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak and order mandatory vaccinations in one neighborhood for people who may have been exposed to the virus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the unusual order to address what he said was a measles "crisis" in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section, where more than 250 people have gotten measles since September. The order applies to anyone living, working or going to school in four zip codes in the neighborhood. The declaration requires all unvaccinated people who may have been exposed to the virus to get the vaccine, including children over 6 months old. People who ignore the order could be fined $1,000.
This kind of invasive move gives rise to several serious questions, including challenging many of the assumptions that are necessarily made to justify such a move.
Assumption #1: People who may have been infected with the measles should get vaccinated immediately. De Blasio wants people who may have been infected with the measles to get vaccinated. The assumption here is that the vaccine would actually help someone who has the virus by preventing them from getting the measles or preventing them from spreading it to others. But this just doesn't stand to reason. If someone is already infected, getting a measles vaccine will not prevent the outbreak. That's not what a vaccine is designed for. And while the person is going through the 2-week period it takes for the vaccine to take hold, it's quite possible that this will weaken the immune response to the actual measles infection the person has. Quarantining people suspected of being infected would be the sensible response, not vaccinating. If they happen to have the measles, no problem. Once they recover they will then be immune for life.
Assumption #2: The MMR Vaccine Can Create Herd Immunity. There is an article in the Huffington post entitled 'I'm No Anti-Vaxxer, But the Measles Vaccine Can't Prevent Outbreaks,' in which Dr. Gregory Poland, who strongly advocates for vaccines, notes that outbreaks are often initiated and spread by people who have been fully vaccinated against the measles–over 50% in the case of a 2011 outbreak in Quebec. How is this possible? While this Quebec outbreak happened within a community that supposedly had achieved herd-immunity status of over 95% vaccinated, the facts are, as the article notes, that "9 per cent of children having two doses of the vaccine, as public health authorities now recommend, will have lost their immunity after just seven and a half years. As more time passes, more lose their immunity." Therefore, herd immunity for measles is simply impossible to achieve with this vaccine.
Assumption #3: The MMR Vaccine, in de Blasio's words, is 'safe, effective, and life-saving.' The claim that the MMR vaccine is 'life-saving' does not stand up to simple statistics, as we detail in our article 'Statistics Show The MMR Vaccine Kills More People Than The Measles Does.' Whether it is effective, we have already seen that it is incapable of creating herd immunity, wanes over time, does not work at all for some people, and in some of the latest outbreaks the majority of people infected were fully vaccinated. Is it safe? This is the important question we cover in the next section.