While the idea of chickenpox and measles parties now seems ridiculous to most people, in the pre-vaccine era, it might not have been so strange. Since getting these diseases was inevitable, it might make some sense to try and control when your kids got sick. Did did pediatricians actually encourage parents to have measles parties?
Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?
Some folks think they have evidence that they did!
Wait, did they really have measles?
These kids had German measles – better known as rubella. Of course, that is not the same thing as measles or rubeola.
Measles vs Rubella
Why do we worry about rubella? Unlike measles, it’s not because it can make kids very sick, but rather because if a pregnant woman gets rubella, then it can be devastating for their baby.
That’s why some folks tried to get rubella when they were kids, well before they reached the age when they could become pregnant.
How did that strategy work out?
Many articles advocating for rubella parties (German measles) appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Of course, those rubella parties didn’t prevent the rubella epidemics that came in 1964-65 and caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome.”
And chronic arthritis is also listed as a table injury for vaccines containing the rubella virus.
Can Vaccines Cause Arthritis?
So that means that vaccines cause arthritis, right?
Actually, no, it doesn’t. At least not the type of arthritis that most people associate with the term arthritis.
Wait, what does that mean?
Vaccines do not cause juvenile arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example.
“Rubella-containing vaccines (e.g. MMR) can cause mild, acute, transient arthralgia or arthritis, rarely in children but very commonly in certain adult women (between 10-25% of adult female vaccinees without preexisting rubella immunity), usually beginning 1-3 weeks after vaccination and then persisting up to 3 weeks. Other vaccines currently routinely recommended to the general population in the U.S. have not been shown to cause chronic arthralgia or arthritis.”
Do Vaccines Cause Arthralgia or Arthritis?
While rubella-containing vaccines can cause arthritis, it is a mild type of arthritis that is usually temporary, lasting about two days.
“Postpubertal females should be informed of the frequent occurrence of generally self-limited arthralgia and/or arthritis beginning 2 to 4 weeks after vaccination.”
MMR-II Package Insert
It is also rare in children.
And it also occurs after a natural rubella infection. In fact, up to 70% of adult women with rubella develop arthralgia or arthritis.
Of course, arthritis isn’t the rubella complication that we worry about…
During the rubella epidemic in the United States just before the rubella vaccine was developed, there were 2,000 cases of encephalitis, 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 babies born with congenital rubella syndrome.
Vaccines for Arthritis
Except for temporary arthritis after the rubella vaccine, not only do vaccines not cause arthritis, it is recommended that people with chronic arthritis get vaccinated.
“Keeping up with your vaccinations is always a smart move, but getting immunized is especially important when you have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both RA and the medicines you take to treat it can increase your risk for infections.”
RA & Vaccinations
And one day, we might even have therapeutic vaccines for arthritis!
Rheumavax completed a phase I clinical trial in Australia a few years ago. That led to the development of a new drug, DEN-181, that is now in phase 1 trials.
What to Know About Vaccines Causing Arthritis
Rubella containing vaccines can cause mild, temporary arthritis, but mostly in postpubertal females and less commonly than after a natural rubella infection.
In Japan, for example, in addition to a rise in measles cases this year, they are seeing big outbreaks of rubella, with weekly totals exceeding 100 cases! These are numbers that are close to what they saw during outbreaks in 2013, a year that ended with 14,344 cases of rubella and 32 cases of congenital rubella syndrome.
And they are already reporting at least one case of congenital rubella syndrome, a 4 week old, which is not surprising, considering that they had nearly 3,000 cases of rubella last year.
Is that what we want to happen here too? Are folks looking forward to having to worry about babies being born with congenital rubella syndrome, a vaccine-preventable disease?
Folks who know the history of the Kennedy family and vaccines are likely surprised that RFK, Jr is holding a contest for his own organization using a visit to the Kennedy compound as a prize.
Can someone ask his mom?
Does she plan to go and does she support his work?
Do other members of the Kennedy family?
Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?
Before we look at the work of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, let’s review what the Kennedy family has done to help get vaccine-preventable diseases under control.
“Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is also the anniversary of the announcement that a vaccine has been discovered to prevent paralytic polio. Today over 90 million Americans have been vaccinated with the Salk vaccine. Over 80 million remain unvaccinated. Almost 4,800,000 children have not been vaccinated, and the majority of these are under five years of age. I hope that the renewed drive this spring and summer to provide vaccination for all Americans, and particularly those who are young, will have the wholehearted support of every parent in America. I hope that they, knowing some of the long range suffering which comes from an attack of polio — with this miraculous drug I hope that everyone takes advantage of it.”
President John F. Kennedy News Conference 9, April 12, 1961
In 1962, John F. Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act). It started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, and has been continuously reauthorized ever since.
What else do we know about the Kennedy family and vaccines?
“Rose and maternal health and the health of her children were paramount for her as those children were growing up. She took great pride in getting them out into the countryside, getting them outside and walking through Brookline when they lived there, and getting them fresh air and getting them whatever medical needs they had. But she would say how fearful she was in the days before vaccines of how a child could pass away so quickly.”
Barbara Perry on The Life of Rose Kennedy
Why was she afraid if measles was so mild, as some folks still claim?
“Or take German Measles. We know German Measles during the first three months of pregnancy almost surely will deform the unborn child. Within the last few weeks, a new vaccine has been tested and preliminary results show it is 100% effective. It should be available within a year. Within our proposed clinics this new vaccine can be administered to children, immunizing them forever against a disease which can cause retardation in future generations. “
Eunice Kennedy Shriver speech before the Citizen’s Committee on Mental Retardation
Concerns about congenital rubella syndrome and German Measles (rubella) led many people to get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine was available.
Remember the rubella epidemic of 1964-65, when there were 12.5 million rubella virus infections, which “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome?”
“It is most encouraging to learn that 28 million children have been vaccinated. This is a wonderful record. But in the great enthusiasm over the rubella program, attention has been removed from the effort to eradicate the common measles. As a result, the 22,231 reported common measles cases in 1968 have risen to 72,000 reported cases for 1971. All children between the ages of 1 and 12 should be immunized. You can help. Keep interest alive in both the common measles and German measles program.”
Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972
Maybe we simply need more folks like this advocating for vaccines today.
“Many of you perhaps may or may not know that old-fashioned measles can cause brain damage in children. Here in California as well as in other states, there are thousands of children who have not been vaccinated against this common childhood disease.”
Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972
How many people have Sargent Shriver’s Peace Corp volunteers help get vaccinated and protected around the world?
“We already have the ability to eradicate red measles, responsible for brain inflammation and mental retardation in one in a thousand cases affected by the disease. The measles vaccine and other vaccines are being administered in increasing numbers today, but we are still far from the kind of universal vaccination program that is necessary. Measles vaccines ought to be administered to every infant from nine months of age on.”
Sargent Shriver at the Special Convocation of George Peabody College (1965)
How many people are vaccinated and protected because of the work of the Kennedy family?