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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

As Predicted, Measles Returns in Unvaccinated

Measles face

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

With measles cases documented in 15 states, it appears the antivaxx attacks against SARS-CoV-2 have engendered resistance to the pediatric immunization schedule.

This problem was compounded recently by Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, MD, PhD, who sent a bizarre letter to parents regarding a measles outbreak at a state elementary school.

Ladapo has a history of taking antivaccine positions, but this one was particularly egregious since it involves children and the most infectious virus on the planet.

In the letter, Ladapo mentioned the MMR measles vaccine, but did not advocate it. Instead of urging children susceptible to measles to be immunized, Ladapo said it is “normally recommended that individuals without a history of prior infection or vaccination stay home for up to 21 days [the incubation period for measles].” He then undercut this questionable recommendation by noting in the same letter that the State Department of Health “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” Since there have already been measles cases at the school and the virus can spread several days before symptoms, susceptible children reentering that environment are at risk of acquiring measles.

“There is a general notion out there now that everybody used to get measles and recovered and it was no big deal,” says William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. “Let me tell you, before we had vaccine, 400 to 500 [children] in the U.S. died of measles and its complications annually. Measles is a nasty virus. There are complications of otitis media and encephalitis. Even those who have an uncomplicated case of measles may be miserable for a week or longer. The answer to all this stunningly simple — vaccinate those children.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Feb. 22, 2024, a total of 35 measles cases were reported by 15 jurisdictions: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

A new book, The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist’s Warning, by vaccine scientist Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, warns that the antivaxx movement is metastasizing and will threaten uptake of the pediatric immunization schedule.

“This is not going to stop with COVID immunizations,” he says. “It is going to spill over into other aspects of biomedicine. One of them is clearly childhood immunization. We are already starting to see the return of measles in outbreaks in the U.S. Measles is often the first one you see because it is the most highly transmissible of all the viruses.”

On Feb. 1, 2022, Hotez was nominated, along with a colleague, for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to design and distribute a nonproprietary, free COVID-19 vaccine to impoverished nations globally.

The very next day he received an anonymous email with the subject line: “You will hang for crimes against humanity.”

This was the price Hotez paid for advocating COVID-19 vaccinations, much as he always had encouraged other immunizations in his writings, talks, and media appearances as the co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development in Houston. Hotez is a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology, and microbiology, as well as the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine.

For more on this story, see the next issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Gary Evans, BA, MA, has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and healthcare workers for more than three decades. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC