There have been at least 79 cases of measles in the US this year as reported by the Center for Disease Control, but I don’t believe any deaths have occurred. To give you an idea of what the measles outbreak is currently like in the Philippines, there have been over 4300 cases and over 70 deaths, mostly by children aged 4 and under, just in the past month. Measles are so contagious that 90% of people who have not been vaccinated and exposed to the virus will contract it.
I have many friends here who have chosen not to vaccinate their children. We also live in a tourist destination that people visit from around the world. Israel is currently in the midst of a measles outbreak; it’s where many of our tourists are from, and where children in the New York outbreak contracted measles on a visit. I even know two people who contracted measles here as adults despite being vaccinated, although the symptoms were weaker because they had received the vaccine as children. And I have a friend who just got measles as an adult because she was never vaccinated for it.
The current low vaccination rate in the Philippines can be traced to a controversial vaccine for dengue (a mosquito-borne viral illness) called Dengvaxia that was administered to almost a million children here a couple years ago. The manufacturer later stated that people who previously did not have dengue and contracted it after the vaccine had the possibility of having much more severe symptoms. 15 out of 154 kids also died of dengue despite receiving the Dengvaxia vaccine, although whether the vaccine was the cause is still under investigation. This controversy has led to an overall decline in vaccinations in general, from 85% down to 60%. Now doctors here are suggesting that babies get the measles vaccine at 6 months, and the government wants to make vaccinations for measles/mumps/rubella; polio; tuberculosis; diphtheria; tetanus/pertussis; poliomyelitis; and hepatitis-B mandatory.
We all know that vaccines can be one of the most controversial parenting topics out there. I’ve read countless articles to try to understand the opposite perspective of mine, which is pro-vaccine. I didn’t have any friends that didn’t vaccinate when I lived in the US, but I have quite a few here. I thought I would share why they chose not to vaccinate their children.
Friend #1 vaccinated her first child, and believes that it caused his autism. She decided not to vaccinate her subsequent children.
Friend #2 says that her 4-year-old has never been sick in his life, and she attributes it to him not being vaccinated.
Friend #3 follows a natural lifestyle, eats raw/vegan foods, and eschews medicine in favor of natural remedies.
Friend #4 believes in vaccines, but with no pediatrician in town she has gotten lax about keeping up with all of them. Her 3-year-old hasn’t had vaccines since he was 6 months old, but she is taking him asap to the local clinic to get the measles vaccine and everything else he needs. Vaccines are free there, but administered only once a week.
I’m not looking to open up a debate between pro and anti vaccines. Minds probably won’t be changed no matter which side you’re on.
My question to you is, as a parent, how would you handle parenting during a measles outbreak? Would you ask potential playdates whether they were vaccinated? Would you avoid friends that you knew weren’t vaccinated? What if you had an unvaccinated infant?
Charlie and Olive are fully vaccinated and we don’t avoid public places, but this outbreak has definitely been weighing heavily on my mind, especially for my friends with infants here who are too young to be vaccinated. They are avoiding public places and staying home!