April 24, 2024

Source: https://medriva.com/news/public-health-news/floridas-measles-outbreak-raises-alarm-over-public-health-response-and-vaccine-hesitancy

Editors Note: Republished from Rizospastis, Saturday 9 March 2024 – Sunday 10 March 2024.

In 2000, the United States declared the elimination of measles in the country, as a result of vaccinations that had begun since the 1960s, when the relevant vaccine was discovered. And yet, in the country at the top of the world imperialist pyramid, measles has reappeared and in recent years has become increasingly threatening. The emergence of cases in Florida a few days ago now makes experts especially worried, since in this State the conditions that led to the return of the dangerous disease are more intense than anywhere else. Of course, it is not only the USA that in the 21st century is faced with supposedly forgotten diseases. There are also many other capitalist countries, and even “advanced” countries, such as the countries of Europe, where 40 out of 53 recorded an increase in the number of measles cases in 2023. Among them are 10 countries – members of the EU. In Greece from the beginning of 2024 until March 7, 19 cases were recorded, which, as announced by the infectious disease specialist S. Tsiodras, mainly belong to the age group of 40-45 years, while among them there are also health professionals who are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated.

Dangerous Infectious Disease

Measles can lead to serious illness, especially in young children. 20% of people without immunity who get the virus will need to be hospitalized. Among infected children, 1 in 20 will develop pneumonia (the most common way measles kills young children), 1 in 1,000 will develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain, sometimes causing permanent damage), and 1 to 3 in 1,000 will die. At the same time, measles causes “immune amnesia,” a condition where the immune system loses the ability to fight other viruses to which people were previously immune.

The measles virus is the most contagious of all viruses on Earth, as it is transmitted through the air and the first symptoms appear 5 days after the person is infected, so for 4 days the patient is contagious without knowing it. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 non-immune people exposed to this virus will become infected. Each measles patient infects an average of 12 to 18 unvaccinated people. Due to the dangerousness and infectivity of the measles virus, there is a 21-day quarantine (how long it takes for the virus to reproduce) and children who become ill must not attend school during this period, nor have contact with people outside the family circle . Viruses spread exponentially and, if their carriers are not isolated, an epidemic can break out very quickly. In the decade before 1963 and the discovery of the first measles vaccine, 3-4 million people in the US got sick each year, 48,000 of them were hospitalized and 400-500 died, according to the country’s state agency for infection control (CDC).

The measles vaccine provides lifelong immunity to 97% of those who have received both doses. The first dose of the vaccine is given at one year of age and a booster dose later. The first dose cannot be given before the newborn is 12 months old, which is why babies are very vulnerable during this period. The unvaccinated person who becomes ill can pass the virus – either directly or through a third party – to a baby who, due to age, has not yet been able to protect himself from measles. Children are usually vaccinated with the measles-rubella-mumps (MMR) triple vaccine, which also covers the other two common childhood diseases.

Florida Case

The reason why experts are particularly concerned about the incidents that appeared a few days ago in Florida is that the Minister of Health of this State (State Surgeon General), Joseph Lapado, announced that the children who got sick can continue to go to school! This unprecedentedly dangerous decision was accompanied by an absolute lack of any information and motivation for parents to vaccinate their unvaccinated children. Children who have been exposed to the virus could have some level of protection if they were vaccinated within the first 72 hours after exposure. Lapado was appointed in 2021 by the Republican candidate for the anointing in this year’s US presidential elections, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who until a few months ago had succeeded against the mask in the pandemic and had tried to stop the lockdown, following the advice of then President D. Trump.

Florida allows exemptions from vaccinations for non-medical reasons, and the number of people taking advantage of this option has increased steadily since 2021. Lapado defended his decision to allow sick children with measles to go to school based on the state’s 91% vaccination rate in daycare centers. However, the necessary vaccination rate for population immunity to measles is 95%. Only at such a rate can herd immunity protect those who cannot be vaccinated, otherwise pockets of disease incubation and transmission to the unprotected can be created

Epidemic

A year ago 85 children, 65% of whom were between the ages of 1 and 5, were sickened by measles in Ohio, US, with children under the age of one expected to take the hardest hit. Of these 80 had not been vaccinated, 4 had had only one dose of the vaccine and 1 is not known if he had had the vaccine! A total of 36 of the children had to be hospitalized, but luckily none died. In the 2021-2022 school year, 88.3% of Ohio kindergarteners had the triple vaccine, compared to 93% of the US national average. In April 2023, another 32 cases of measles were identified in American Samoa, in children aged 2 months to 13 years. In 2019 a measles epidemic had swept the island nations of the Pacific Ocean. At that time, in the state of Samoa (not the American possession) there were 5,700 cases, most of them in children under the age of 5, of which 83 died. The outbreak came after the region’s vaccination rate fell from 74% to 34% between 2017 and 2018, when two infants died due to poor vaccine preparation by nursing staff.

Globally, the World Health Organization announced that in 2021, due to the pandemic, approximately 40 million children missed a dose of the measles vaccine, namely 25 million the first dose and 14.7 million the second dose. But it’s not just the pandemic that has reduced vaccination. A study in the US found that in 2022 a third of parents reported skipping a vaccination for one of their children. Several of these parents, swayed by false claims that the triple vaccine causes autism, decided not to give it to their youngest child while vaccinating him for other diseases

Irrationality

The irrationality and unscientific theories that flood the US are also cultivated with the responsibility of the state. In the period of the COVID pandemic, they reflected contradictions and rivalries in its management, while they were also used as a convenient alibi to hide state-government responsibilities for the absence of a comprehensive vaccination program and the huge deficiencies in the public Health system. However, the tendency to reinforce irrationality and notions of objective and subjective idealism manifests itself multi-faceted and multi-layered throughout the capitalist system as it decays. The reluctance to the point of refusing to vaccinate was also strengthened by the derogatory policy of the governments towards the people during the pandemic period, e.g. of the Greek government, which from one day to the next described lockdowns as unnecessary when the tourist season came, declared that special masks were not needed when there was not a sufficient quantity of them but became necessary when there was a quantity – which had to be sold – and a series of other phenomena that created the reasonable suspicion of fraud. Although deception and disorientation are a common practice of bourgeois power, vaccines are still among the most life-saving scientific discoveries of the 20th century, especially those that reduced mortality from diseases that were once certain to be contracted by the age of 15 of years, with parents worrying about potential consequences for their children’s health.

Editor:
Stavros XENIKOUDAKIS
Source: “Scientific American”