Measles, Vaccines, and Autism




Measles Virus

Highly communicable (9 out of 10 in same room will become infected)


10-14 day incubation period

Fever (up to 104F or 40C), runny nose, sore throat, conjunctivitis, cough

Eventually, rash that starts on the face and moves down.

Koplik spots develop (small white spots on inside surface of cheek)

Contagious 4 days before and 4 days after rash

Mortality is .2% (2/1000) for developed countries, up to 10% for non-developed

Complications include pneumonia, diarrhea, ear infections, encephalitis, spontaneous abortion in pregnant, thrombocytopenia


Measles Vaccination

First isolated in 1954, first vaccine in 1963, first MMR combo in 1971

Reported measles cases in the US dropped from around 700,000 per year in the 50s and 60s to the thousands in the 1980s, and to the hundreds in the 2000s.

Recommendations that children receive a second dose around age 5 started in 1989 (93% are immune after 1 vaccine, 97% with the second)

Side effects:


Fever in 1/6

Mild rash in 1/20

Swollen glands in 1/75


Temporary joint pain/stiffness 1/4

Seizure due to fever 1/3000

Temporary low platelet count 1/30,000


Severe allergic reaction 1/1,000,000

VAERS system for reporting adverse effects


Medical – all 50 states

Religious – 48 states (MS, WV)

Philosophical – 17 states (MN included)


Why vaccinate if measles is gone?

Zhou et al paper published in Pediatrics 2009:

vaccination of 2009 cohort prevents 42,000 early deaths, 20M cases of disease, saves 13B in direct cost, and 69B in total societal cost


Herd Immunity:

Protection by breaking the potential for a disease to spread

“freeloaders” making a game theory risk calculation

Measles R0 12-18.  For herd immunity, need 83-94% vaccination



Andrew Wakefield

Born 1957

Graduated medical school 1981, practiced as a surgeon and researcher

1993 – published reports that measles virus was linked to Crohn’s disease (refuted)

1995 – published a paper in The Lancet that MMR vaccine caused Crohn’s disease (refuted)

1995 – Rosemary Kessick, mother of child with autism and bowel issues, and head of “Allergy Induced Autism” approached Wakefield

1998 – Paper linking autism, gastroenteritis, and measles/MMR

2001 – Wakefield leaves Royal Free Hospital, moves to US

2004 – The Sunday Times releases report that parents of 12 kids in study were recruited by UK law firm seeking legal action against MMR manufacturing companies, and that 55,000 had been paid to Wakefield’s hospital to pay for the research.  Just prior to the report, The Lancet retracted portions of the Wakefield paper, with the consent of 10 out of 12 co-researchers

Later in 2004 – Another news organization alleges that prior to his research, Wakefield had taken out a patent for a measles-only vaccine

2006 – The Sunday Times reveals that Wakefield was personally paid over 400,000 by the same UK law firm

2010 – UK GMC retracted Wakefield’s medical license (he released an autobiography claiming the medical institution was out to get him on the same day).

2010 – Wakefield paper officially retracted from The Lancet

2011 – BMJ releases Deer article


2014 – CDC reports 644 cases of measles in the US – highest since 2000 when measles was declared eradicated

2015 – By the end of January, we’ve seen over 100 cases already…


Anti-Vaccination Assertions:

Overloaded immune system – no evidence to support this, just more time at risk

Diseases are gone – not really, just suppressed by herd immunity

In breakouts, more vaccinated than unvaccinated get sick – because there are more vaccinated people to start with

Hygiene and Nutrition reduced disease, not vaccination – Chicken Pox

“Natural Immunity is Better” – see above risks with infection





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