• Measles Epidemic: Parents Reluctant to Vaccinate Their Children Need to Hear of the Horrors of Forgotten Diseases

    There’s been a surge in measles cases across Europe, putting people’s lives at risk according to new findings from the World Health Organization. This has in part been put down to disinformation about the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine on social media putting parents off vaccinating their children. Why are people reluctant to have screening tests and vaccinations to prevent diseases? Sarah Pitt writes in The Conversation that while some of the reasons may include loss of trust in “experts” and people in authority, I wonder if it is also partly because the stories of such diseases have been long forgotten. “Gruesome photos on cigarette packages, for example, massively help to reduce tobacco use, so maybe something similar now needs to happen in terms of vaccinations to tackle the latest epidemic and anti-vaxxer campaigns around the world,” she writes.

  • The Message of Measles

    If we have to pick a Patient Zero, Andrew Wakefield will do. Wakefield is the British gastroenterologist who produced the notorious article, published in The Lancet in 1998, linking the M.M.R. vaccine to autism. The study, which featured just twelve subjects, was debunked, the article was pulled, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine—as well as his reputation, in scientific circles anyway. But, owing to his persistence in the years since, his discredited allegations have spread like mold. In the anti-vaxxer pantheon, he is martyr and saint.

  • Texas Cities More Susceptible to Measles Outbreaks

    The growing number of children arriving at Texas schools unvaccinated makes the state increasingly vulnerable to measles outbreaks in cities large and small, according to a new study. The findings indicate that an additional 5 percent decrease in vaccination rates, which have been on a downward trend since 2003, would increase the size of a potential measles outbreak by up to 4,000 percent in some communities.

  • Powerful Potential Weapon May Overcome Antibiotic Resistance

    UNC School of Medicine researchers led by Brian Conlon, PhD, discover how molecules called rhamnolipids could make common aminoglycoside antibiotics effective against the toughest Staph infections.

  • Italians Decided to Fight a Conspiracy Theory. Here's What Happened Next.

    Alongside the flat-earthers, 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers, the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have always had a special distinction: They can do immediate and specific damage in a way that the others can’t. Birtherism surely increased Americans’ distrust of politics, though in ways that are hard to pin down. By contrast, when anti-vaxxers persuade parents not to vaccinate children, the result can be sickness and even death.

  • German law would require measles vaccination to attend schools, kindergartens, daycare

    German children will have to prove they have had a measles vaccination before they would be allowed to attend kindergarten or go to school. A new draft law imposes steep fines on parents who refuse to immunize their children.

  • What the Measles Epidemic Really Says about America

    The critic Susan Sontag observed that disease can serve as a metaphor—a reflection of the society through which it travels. Now, a virus is offering insights into the country’s psychic and civic condition. Two decades ago, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. Yet in the first five months of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 1,000 cases—more than occurred from 2000 to 2010. Three cultural conditions have contributed to the resurgence of measles in the United States. One is historical forgetting: contemporary America suffers from a dangerous lack of historical memory. The second is diminished trust in government. As distrust of government has grown, so too has distrust of vaccines. The third is a population that suffers from overconfidence in its own amateur knowledge. This third condition is especially dangerous: It’s one thing to Google a food to see whether it’s healthy. It’s quite another to dismiss decades of studies on the benefits of vaccines because you’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos.

  • Curing vaccine hesitation by meeting someone with vaccine-preventable disease

    Since 1 January, a staggering 1,109 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in twenty-four states — the greatest number of cases since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. The outbreaks have been attributed to an increasing number of Americans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Exposing vaccine hesitant to real-life pain of diseases makes them more pro-vaccine.

  • U.S. measles cases reach 1,109 as studies point to early vaccination

    On Monday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 14 more measles cases, raising the year’s total number of cases to 1,109, as two studies conducted in other nations highlight some advantages of early vaccination of babies.

  • California Laws Lead to Higher Kindergarten Vaccine Rates

    From 2014 to 2016, California authorities took three separate actions meant to increase childhood vaccination rates, and a new study suggests these interventions were successful. “The best way to remedy the current system failure regarding measles vaccination may be to adopt a unified national approach to prohibit nonmedical exemptions, and thereby regain the degree of nationwide protection against vaccine-preventable disease from which children and other community members will benefit,” says one expert.

  • Global Public Health Scientists Launch New Challenge to Anti-Vaxxers

    Vaccines have prevented hundreds of millions of infectious diseases, including polio, measles, hepatitis B and meningitis, saving up to 3 million lives yearly. These facts have not prevented ill-informed anti-vaxxers from conducting a conspiracy-fueled campaign of misinformation and about the safety of vaccines. An international group of leading public health scientists say that search engines and social media organizations must do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information on childhood vaccination, and governments must better support mandatory immunization programs.

  • Re-thinking Biological Arms Control for the 21st Century

    International treaties prohibit the development and use of biological weapons. Yet concerns about these weapons have endured and are now escalating. Filippa Lentzos writes in a paper issued by the U.S. Marine Corps that a major source of the growing concern about future bioweapons threats stem from scientific and technical advances. Innovations in biotechnology are expanding the toolbox to modify genes and organisms at a staggering pace, making it easier to produce increasingly dangerous pathogens. Disease-causing organisms can now be modified to increase their virulence, expand their host range, increase their transmissibility, or enhance their resistance to therapeutic interventions. Scientific advances are also making it theoretically possible to create entirely novel biological weapons, by synthetically creating known or extinct pathogens or entirely new pathogens. Scientists could potentially enlarge the target of bioweapons from the immune system to the nervous system, genome, or microbiome, or they could weaponize ‘gene drives’ that would rapidly and cheaply spread harmful genes through animal and plant populations.

  • Teens of “anti-vaxxers” can get their own vaccines, some states say

    A young man who had just turned 18 showed up at the Virginia office of Drs. Sterling and Karen Ransone earlier this month and asked for the vaccines for meningitis and human papillomavirus. It was his first opportunity to be vaccinated. As a minor, he needed permission from his parents, and they wouldn’t grant it because they didn’t think the vaccines were medically necessary. Now, as a legal adult, he could get the shots on his own. This year there have been at least 1,044 measles cases in 28 states — the largest outbreak since 1992. Michael Ollove writes in Stateline that public health officials blame parents who have refused to have their kids vaccinated. One way to boost immunization rates is to narrow school vaccination exemptions, which four states have done this year. Another is to take the decision out of parents’ hands and let their kids choose for themselves. A handful of states already have given teens some vaccination rights.

  • Should measles vaccination be made compulsory?

    As measles cases in Europe hit their highest levels this decade, should the U.K. adopt compulsory vaccination? Ethicists have argued that compulsory vaccination is acceptable because people who don’t vaccinate their children are potentially putting other people’s health at risk, particularly those who can’t be vaccinated and are therefore more vulnerable.

  • No exceptions: New York, Washington, Maine abolish religious exemptions for measles vaccine, California looks to limit medical exemptions

    The measles outbreaks that have spread through different parts of the country this year are causing lawmakers and advocates in several states to rethink their policies about vaccinations, despite ongoing skepticism and sometimes-fierce political pushback from anti-vaxxers. Laura Fay writes in t74 that New York, Maine and Washington state have all taken steps to restrict vaccine exemptions based on religious beliefs this year, and California is considering a measure to tighten up its existing policy governing medical exemptions.