Tag: harmless killer

Wakefield’s Mutating Measles and Natural Herd Immunity

Andrew Wakefield is back and warning folks about “mutant measles” and our loss of natural herd immunity.

Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree talk about mutating measles and natural herd immunity.

Of course, that isn’t what is causing our record breaking measles outbreaks.

Natural Herd Immunity

Why is he talking about measles this time, besides a new propaganda film he is already pushing?

“We are in a time now when obviously anti-vaxxers are getting blamed for these measles outbreaks here in this country – the biggest measles outbreak since they declared measles to be eradicated from America. But what you had to say was really interesting. First, the only deaths I’ve seen really specifically have been the stewardess in Israel. We hear about she died. She got the measles but she was vaccinated. There was a child, a young man in Europe. He died after having measles. He was vaccinated… What’s happening? Why is the news not talking about how these were vaccinated individuals? What’s happening with measles?”


He is looking to play the blame game. Measles cases are on the rise and while they aren’t all due to vaccine hesitancy, many are. And that has left anti-vaccine folks looking to shift the blame elsewhere.

And with cases on the rise, we are also seeing measles deaths on the rise. Which has to make you think, has Del Bigtree really only heard of two measles deaths? After all, there have been over a hundred in Europe, including eight measles deaths in Italy alone.

“I guess the question comes down to that poor air stewardess. Did she die because she was vaccinated? That’s a really big question.”


Is that really even a question?

A 43-year-old mother of three, died four months after getting measles while working as a flight attendant for El Al, getting exposed on a flight from New York and Israel.

She died because someone exposed her to measles, a life-threatening disease.

“It really is a question of who is to blame, who’s really to blame for the resurgence of measles around the world. Is it those they label anti-vaxxers or is it in fact those responsible for vaccination?”


Hmm, who’s to blame for the outbreaks. Anti-vaxxers or those vaccinating and protecting folks…

Guess who Wakefield is blaming?

“I’ve been studying measles since 1990. It’s something I know something about. As I got into it… I suddenly realized what the problem was and I also realized that they, on the other side, the vaccinologists, the industry, the smart ones, know it. And it’s their greatest fear.”


So what did Wakefield figure out?

This is the consequence of better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition in the first part of the century and vaccines later on.
This is the consequence of better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition in the first part of the century and vaccines later on.

He talks about natural herd immunity, shows mortality graphs, and goes on about how measles is most serious in those under one and adults, but is a “trivial disease” in children.

“Nature has constrained the age of exposure to the majority of people getting measles when they are children, because that’s when they can get it safely.”


So by vaccinating people, he argues that we have interrupted the protection you get from natural infections. Adults don’t have lifetime immunity from their childhood infections and infants don’t have the passive immunity they get from their mothers, protecting them when they are most at risk.

He goes so far as to say that measles deaths would have “declined to zero” if we had never vaccinated!

What’s the problem with his theory?

Typical mortality graphs that anti-vax folks use don't tell the whole story...
Typical mortality graphs that anti-vax folks use don’t tell the whole story…

Well, for one thing, why didn’t natural herd immunity protect folks from dying with measles in the early 1900s? Or in the 1950s, when we still had 400 deaths a year in the United States?

Why didn’t natural herd immunity get rid of smallpox or any other disease?

And if we go back to the pre-vaccine era, when everyone got measles, what happens to all those with immune system problems who will almost certainly die if they get exposed to measles? These are the people who rely on herd immunity now, but they will be at big risk in this natural herd immunity model, because it means that millions of kids get measles every year.

Give Another Dose…

What do Wakefield and Del think that our answer will be to the measles outbreaks?

“The only answer they have is to give another dose, and give another dose, and give another dose.”


Of course, there are no calls to give “one more in college” and “two more MMR in adulthood” for measles protection as Del Bigtree claims.

In fact, two doses are very effective protection against measles.

“We report a screen of plasma donors confirming that widespread use of childhood measles vaccination since 1963 resulted in a decrease in average measles virus antibody titers among plasma donors, which is reflected in intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIGs).”

Modrof et al on Measles Virus Neutralizing Antibodies in Intravenous Immunoglobulins: Is an Increase by Revaccination of Plasma Donors Possible?

And no, the paper Wakefield talked about doesn’t prove that the MMR vaccine doesn’t work.

“With the success of the measles vaccination program and the ongoing World Health Organization efforts to eliminate and ultimately eradicate measles worldwide, a replacement of the measles virus antibody titer as a functional potency requirement for IVIG seems inevitable in the long term.”

Modrof et al on Measles Virus Neutralizing Antibodies in Intravenous Immunoglobulins: Is an Increase by Revaccination of Plasma Donors Possible?

The article actually talks about how successful the MMR vaccine is and just says that folks who are vaccinated don’t get the extra high levels of antibodies needed to make IVIG, which is used to treat people who are exposed to measles.

That doesn’t mean their vaccine didn’t work though. Many studies have demonstrated an amnestic response after measles vaccination, meaning that antibodies levels rise with any exposure to wild measles virus.

Mutating Measles

Little that Andrew Wakefield or Del Bigtree say in their video on mutating measles is true.

When he finally gets to actually talking about mutating measles, it is about a paper describing a new D4 subgenotype of measles.

Most measles outbreaks are now caused by B3 and D8 measles strains.
Most measles outbreaks are now caused by B3 and D8 measles strains.

A strain for which antigenic shift might have led to resistance to vaccine induced protection, but fortunately, one that is rarely found.

And it isn’t what’s causing our measles outbreaks.

Remember, most people who get measles are unvaccinated.

“It’s that certainty that makes them so dangerous.”


Why is Wakefield so certain he is right?

“This is why, when that air hostess, got her vaccine, which she was probably promised, her mother was promised that it would give her protection for life, and it didn’t. She was susceptible again as an adult when it was more serious. So measles vaccination had made what was increasingly a trivial disease in children a much, much more dangerous disease. So who’s responsible for the resurgence of measles? Who’s responsible for the death of that girl?


Who does he blame for bringing measles back?

Wakefield blames the vaccinologists…

Who's really to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s really to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

How many people still blame Wakefield?

“So the adult population of this country is completely unprotected from measles virus unless you have had a natural infection. Boosting it with vaccination is not going to make any difference and that is an incredibly worrying situation.”


Just remember, the measles vaccine is very effective, especially when you get two doses. Most of the people who are getting measles are unvaccinated, either intentionally or because of lack of access.

And measles is hardly a trivial disease.

Neither is listening to this kind of anti-vaccine propaganda.

More on Mutating Measles and Natural Herd Immunity

Why Have We Forgotten About the Importance of Vaccination Against Measles?

While most of us know that measles is a serious, life-threatening disease, there are still some folks that want you to think that it is nothing to worry about.

It’s just a rash and fever, right?

The Importance of Vaccination Against Measles

Actually, while most people did recover after having a high fever, irritability, and other symptoms for a week or more, some didn’t. That’s why doctors at the time called it a harmless killer.

In the pre-vaccine era, hospitalizations, tracheotomies, encephalitis, sepsis, death from measles were not rare.
In the pre-vaccine era, hospitalizations, tracheotomies, encephalitis, sepsis, death from measles were not rare.

And why many were looking forward to a vaccine to get measles under control, as measles was a leading killer at the time.

Seymour Musiker calls on pediatricians to take action to get more kids vaccinated against measles.
A call for pediatricians to take action to get kids vaccinated against measles.

While measles vaccination was getting off to a slow start at the time, it should be obvious that there was a big need for these vaccines.

“Thus it is up to each one of us to convince our own segment of the population since this seems to be the only way to do it. And it is up to each one of us to remind our fellow physicians to cover his segment of the population.”

Norman Lewak, MD

Fortunately, everyone did finally take action and while it was a little later than originally planned, we got measles under control.

“Vigorous endorsement and execution of this aim by physicians and responsible health authorities should eliminate measles by 1970, and a suitable motto for the five-year period might well be “Mortus a morbilli.”

Lewis L. Coriell, MD

And the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we eliminated or eradicated measles. It simply means that all cases and outbreaks are linked to someone from outside the United States.

Now, as too many people are either scared or have forgotten about the importance of vaccination against measles, cases are rising, continuing to reach new record levels.

So what’s next?

“All we need is one concerted campaign to get every susceptible vaccinated. One death, one brain-damaged child, or even one child who needs hospitalization is one too many.”

Norman Lewak, MD

Let’s get everyone vaccinated and protected.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and they are obviously necessary.

Measles is not a mild disease. And it never was.

More on the Importance of Vaccination Against Measles

Alexander Langmuir on Measles

It’s a shame that most people only know of Alexander Langmuir because anti-vaccine folks like to make it sound like he was against vaccines.

How do they do that?

By making up quotes and using some real quotes out of context.

Alexander Langmuir on Measles

Remember the Alexander Langmuir quotes about flu vaccines?

He never really said that “no one should take the flu vaccine.”

And now folks are misrepresenting what he said about measles.

Alexander Langmuir was a big advocate of the measles vaccine.

So what did he really say?

“This self-limiting infection of short duration, moderate severity, and low fatality has maintained a remarkably stable biological balance over the centuries. Those epidemiologists, and there are many, who tend to revere the biological balance have long argued that the ecological equilibrium of measles is solidly based, that it can not readily be disrupted and that therefore we must learn to live with this parasite rather than hope to eradicate it. This speaker, not so long ago, was counted among this group and waxed eloquent on this subject in print.

Happily, this era is ending. New and potent tools that promise effective control of measles are at hand. If properly developed and wisely used, it should be possible to disrupt the biological balance of measles. Its eradication from large continental landmasses such as North America and many other parts of the world can be anticipated soon.”

Alexander Langmuir et al on The Importance of Measles as a Health Problem

Alexander Langmuir didn’t think that measles was a benign disease.

“…any parent who has seen his small child suffer even for a few days with persistent fever of 105, with hacking cough and delirium wants to see this prevented…”

Alexander Langmuir

And he thought that we should work to eradicate it.

“The availability of potent and effective measles vaccines, which have been tested extensively of the past 4 years, provides the basis for the eradication of measles in any community that will raise its immune thresholds to readily attainable levels.”

Alexander Langmuir et al on Epidemiologic Basis For Eradication Of Measles In 1967

Alexender Langmuir, who was Chief Epidemiologist at CDC for 21 years and founded the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), said that “all infants should receive measles vaccine at approximately 1 year of age.”

What else did he say?

“When measles has become so widespread that epidemics are already present in several schools and in different communities within a city or county, more extensive communitywide measures must be undertaken. Then the full resources of the health and medical services of the total community, backed by well-coordinated voluntary agencies, will need to be mobilized. Again, priority should be directed first to the immunization of susceptible children in schools or who congregate in other enclosed spaces. If such immunization programs are carried out promptly and effectively, an epidemic of measles can be contained within 2 to 3 weeks.”

Alexander Langmuir

It would be nice to get back to where we could contain outbreaks in 2 to 3 weeks.

It would be nice if folks really listened to what Alexander Langmuir had to say and vaccinated their kids.

More on Alexander Langmuir on Measles

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

While folks often try and make it seem like measles is a common childhood illness, we know that it can be dangerous.

“One of the patients was a 20-year-old pregnant woman who had rash onset on January 5 following exposure to her 12-year-old brother. After delivering a healthy baby on January 6, the mother developed severe pneumonia that was followed by respiratory arrest. She was resuscitated and transferred to an intensive care unit in a larger hospital nearby in Tennessee.”

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Transmission of Measles Across State Lines — Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia

Rarely do people who have really had measles describe it as just a fever and a rash. They remember that it was called a harmless killer for a reason.

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

And there are some situations in which measles can be especially dangerous, including if you get sick when you are very young, very old, or have immune system problems.

Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.
Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.

And what if you are pregnant when you get measles?

“The Health Department announced today that the number of measles cases has grown to 390, including two pregnant women diagnosed with the infection, one diagnosed in mid-April.”

The Number of Measles Cases Grows to 390

If you are pregnant and you are exposed to someone with measles, you can get IVIG post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent you from actually getting measles, but this typically only works if given within six days of the exposure.

“To date, studies have not identified an increased risk for birth defects when pregnant women get the measles during pregnancy. However, studies suggest that measles infection is associated with an increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and the baby being born with a measles infection.”

When Measles Strike, It’s Not The Happiest Place On Earth For Pregnant Women

Unlike a rubella infection during pregnancy, a measles infection is not thought to cause birth defects. Tragically, it can, like rubella, lead to an increased risk for having a miscarriage.

“Infants who develop congenital measles are at increased risk for mortality and for subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which is more common when measles is diagnosed in infancy. In addition, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis in newborns infected with measles either congenitally or shortly after birth appears to be more severe, with a shorter latency and rapidly progressive course.”

What Obstetric Health Care Providers Need to Know About Measles and Pregnancy

And if the mother gets measles very late in her pregnancy, it can also lead to a case of congenital measles, or a baby being born with an active measles infection.

“In 52% of cases, measles was likely acquired from a relative. Complications included pneumonia in one child; two pregnant women required hospitalization, including one who miscarried.”

Notes from the Field: Measles Outbreak Among Members of a Religious Community — Brooklyn, New York, March–June 2013

Don’t take the risk that you might get measles while you are pregnant.

Make sure you are vaccinated and protected before you ever start thinking about getting pregnant, as pregnancy is a contraindication to getting the MMR vaccine. And you should wait at least 4 weeks after getting vaccinated before getting pregnant.

More on Measles in Pregnancy