Art by Paul Ingvaldsen
Art by Paul Ingvaldsen

By Eliza De la Flor / Contributing Writer

A measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December is spreading to other states and countries as far as Europe and reigniting the public vaccination debate to levels not seen since actress Jenny McCarthy realized she isn’t a doctor.

Vaccine supporters cite numerous studies proving the drug’s benefits. Anti-vaccine proponents also reference studies as well as past medications once considered safe and found to have traumatic side effects.

Heather Dillard is a mother and nurse who has decided to go the anti-vaccine route. She said she doesn’t worry about her family, not because they have healthy immune systems, but rather “about affecting children who are immune-compromised and cannot be vaccinated,” according to a Newsday article.

OK, so, your seemingly healthy child is a carrier, unbeknown to you and comes into contact with a newborn too young for safe vaccination. “Contact,” by the way, can simply mean being in the vicinity, since measles can be transmitted through the air. You and your child are fine, surrounded by vaccinated individuals. That newborn, though? Face it: if that baby is diagnosed with measles, you bear the responsibility.

A popular anti-vaccine argument cited a study tenuously linking vaccinations to increased diagnoses for autism. The argument gained unfortunate widespread attention when Jenny McCarthy decided vaccines were the culprit for her son’s autism diagnosis. Correlation is not causation. The rate of autism diagnosis and misdiagnosis has risen as researchers discover more about the disorder and more information is available to the public. The study had already been dismissed by the medical community when McCarthy decided it was relevant to her situation. It turned out her son’s initial diagnosis was wrong. McCarthy was not nearly as vocal and forthcoming with retractions as she had been with accusations and mis-education.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website defines the risk: “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune also will become infected.”

Don’t even try the “I keep my family home if they seem at all sick” argument either, because the CDC also tells us, “Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.”

So, if your unvaccinated special little snowflake comes down with measles, good luck contacting everyone you shared the same atmosphere with in the past week. That’s your responsibility, right?

If you’re prepared not to vaccinate yourself and your family, then please be prepared to shoulder all the accompanying responsibility. Understand that the burden is shouldered by everyone.