Opinion writers weigh in on the current measles outbreaks and the importance of vaccines.
A group of parents filed suit Monday against the New York City Department of Health to block an emergency order requiring measles vaccinations for everyone in four ZIP codes in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The threat of measles — and the opposition to vaccination — isn’t coming from the hipsters who populate some parts of the neighborhood. The target is a community of mostly Hasidic, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews, who have refused vaccination for quasi-religious reasons and who are now caught in the middle of a measles outbreak that city health officials fear could spread fast and dangerously. One yeshiva’s preschool program has already been closed as a health hazard. (Noah Feldman, 4/16)
The public health infrastructure in America is crumbling. The evidence is accumulating as documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other institutions. This includes reduced life expectancy, a higher incidence of suicide (across age, gender, race and ethnicity), continued contamination of public water supplies, an epidemic of fatalities caused by opioid overdoses and higher rates of chronic liver disease. The major irony of these troubling developments is that progress continues to be made against some of the leading killers of heart disease, cancer and stroke. (Terry F. Yosie, 4/16)
Measles is a scary disease. But its current comeback tour is also a symptom of an even scarier epidemic: the proliferation of false or unreliable health information among consumers susceptible to unwarranted anxieties, dubious medical theories and unproven remedies. Epidemiologists attribute the national measles outbreak to rising parental skepticism about the vaccine that had virtually eradicated the disease in the U.S. before rise of the anti-vaxxer movement. Much of that distrust can be traced to the discredited theories of a now-defrocked scientist named Andrew Wakefield — and a growing body of research credits social media and search titans like Facebook and Google, and streaming video providers like Amazon and Netflix, for disseminating Wakefield’s work long after legitimate scientists had debunked it. (Brian Dickerson, 4/16)
Vaccines are an essential part of the care of babies and children, offering protection from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pneumonia, and polio, diseases that once harmed or killed thousands of U.S. children every year and that still kill thousands around the world. Sometimes forgotten is that adults can also benefit from vaccines. To prevent unnecessary deaths and improve public health, the U.S. and other countries need to take more seriously the concept of life-course vaccination, an approach to ensure that immunization programs are effectively implemented for people at all ages and stages of life. (Lois Privor-Dumm, 4/16)
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