Say #NoWayDrJay: Don’t Bring Measles Back
Mar 31, 2014
The CDC has recently reported that the United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases this year with outbreaks spread from New York to California. Despite the fact that measles was once declared eliminated in this country, 14 years later we’re on track for a record high year with 89 cases so far in 2014.
Due to various media outlets covering these outbreaks, we’ve begun receiving quite a few inquiries from concerned parents on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page. Some have infant children under one year of age who aren’t old enough for their first dose of measles vaccine. Others have children who have yet to receive their second dose at age 4-6 years of age and they’re wondering if their children can be vaccinated earlier. Others have children with medical conditions that prevent them from receiving the measles vaccine. These children are completely dependent on others being vaccinated to help provide a protective community immunity and their parents are understandably concerned about these outbreaks. Still others have fully vaccinated children, but are infuriated by the statements being made by irresponsible physicians that have tried to downplay the significance of the outbreaks and encourage vaccine refusal.
Last week we highlighted comments Dr. Bob Sears’ made on his Facebook page that suggested that measles infection was not dangerous.
Now we’ve seen a similar message from Dr. Jay Gordon, a well known pediatrician in Los Angeles, who sent this letter to his patients last week.
Our office has received a large number of phone calls and emails about measles. There are 21 reported cases in Orange County. I’m not aware of the number of cases in our immediate area. In July, 2014, we celebrate the 30th year at 901 Montana and we have never had a child in our office contract measles. As many of you know, I use the MMR vaccine more sparingly than most pediatricians so I’m a bit surprised that the number is zero, but it is.
The media, as they often do, are covering this story quite heavily and the headlines make it appear that there is imminent great danger. In fact, the last fatality from measles in the USA was eleven years ago in 2003. Headlines speak of “ten times more measles in 2014.” The newspaper articles often don’t mention that California had very few cases of measles in the past five years so the 35 cases reported among 38,000,000 Californians is not a frighteningly large numerical jump. There have been about 80 cases of measles in the United States this year. All of these cases began with importation by travelers and then spread to close contacts. Measles is unlikely to be spread by a brief encounter or sharing a BART train.
If you would like the MMR vaccine, please feel free to get it. My personal reservations have nothing to do with Dr. Wakefield’s “Lancet” article and are not supported by published medical research. These reservations are supported by observation and anecdotal evidence only.
The CDC defines outbreak as two cases spread from the same source. The measles outbreak of 2014 does not pose a risk to your healthy child. Best, Jay
Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
Julie Zwillich, a frustrated parent of two young vaccinated children contacted us, and various other media outlets, because she was very concerned about Dr. Gordon and other physicians
“who do great harm to children by espousing their ‘beliefs’ which are adherent to neither the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines nor those of the CDC”.
Her concern is echoed by other parents, including Maureen Kelly who wrote us saying:
I actually took my son to see “Dr. Jay” in 2008 (for a breastfeeding problem, he was an IBCLC.) I’ve been on his mailing list since then and was surprised to see this letter, which he also linked to on his Twitter feed. What shocked me the most was the statement that measles poses no risk to healthy children. It is my understanding that a small percentage of people who contract measles will be maimed or die. It is also my understanding that even an uncomplicated case of measles means a pretty miserable week or two. Since I have an infant who is too young to receive the MMR, I am concerned that he could become infected by an unvaccinated or under-vaccinated person. Flippant attitudes that make measles out to be “no big deal” or “no-risk” keep families from appropriately vaccinating or quarantining when a family member has symptoms. I also find it bizarre that “Dr. Jay” admits that his medical advice is not based on science or research. How can he appropriately treat children when he feels free to ignore evidence? It’s very disappointing to hear a physician speak this way about a serious and preventable illness.”
We realize that the majority of parents rely on sound medical advice and choose to vaccinate because of the overwhelming evidence that proves vaccines to be safe and effective. However, it’s always concerning when doctors suggest there is little reason to be concerned about, or vaccinate, for measles. After all, it wasn’t that long ago – just in the late 1980’s/early 1990s – that low immunization rates against measles in the U.S. were associated with an epidemic that resulted in about 11,000 hospitalizations and 120 deaths. This is especially devastating when we consider that the measles vaccine is highly effective, with 95% of children developing immunity after one shot, and about 99% developing immunity after two shots.
The emphasis during these current outbreaks is obviously focused on informing those who are not adequately protected. And that’s not just people who remain unvaccinated. It’s also the possible 4% of vaccinated people who did not receive immunity from the vaccine. And it also includes children less than a year old who are too young to be vaccinated and children less than 6 who may not have received their second dose yet. Even adults vaccinated prior to the early 1990’s when the new two-dose recommendation went into effect may be at risk because they never received their second dose. And we must warn people traveling to countries where there are endemic measles. For instance, there have been more US travelers returning from the Philippines with measles in 2014 than any other destination and most of these imported case have been among unvaccinated children younger than 2 years of age.
In support of parents like Julie and Maureen who respect the science, I suggest we respond to Dr. Jay’s Twitter in much the same way we responded to Jenny McCarthy – by disagreeing with his advice and suggesting he consider recommendations based on science and research. Send a tweet to @JayGordonMDFAAP and use the hashtag #NoWayDrJay so that he can learn about the dangers of measles and the importance of vaccines.
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