Understanding Measles & the Dangers of Vaccines

measles rash closeup

While the measles can be a nuisance, the disease might not be as dangerous as you once thought, with proper care. In fact, the potential dangers of vaccines might be just as great or greater than contracting the measles virus. Knowing the facts helps protect you and your children.

What Is the Measles?

The measles is an infection that commonly occurs in childhood and is caused by a virus. The disease can almost always be prevented with vaccines, but vaccinations come with their own set of side effects and risks. Signs and symptoms of measles, which often occur about 10-14 days after exposure to the virus, can include:

  • A skin rash of large, flat blotches that typically flow into each other
  • Tiny white spots on a red background inside of the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Inflamed eyes

A measles rash usually first appears on the face and spreads down the arms, trunk, legs, and feet. You or your child might experience a fever as high as 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit. If someone with the measles doesn’t receive proper care, complications might include diarrhea, infections, and even brain damage or death—but death from measles is rare in the U.S.

How Common Is Developing Measles?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of measles cases in the United States (from years 2010 to 2018) vary from 55 to 667 cases per year. However, dying from the measles is very rare in the U.S. Just one confirmed death was reported from the measles in 2015, which was the first of its kind in over a decade. Death from the measles is more likely in infants and young children and other people with compromised immune systems.

Do Vaccines Prevent the Measles?

The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, which the CDC recommends that children receive between the ages of 12-15 months old, helps protect against contracting the measles. When given in recommended dosages, the MMR vaccine is 97% effective at preventing the measles. However, the vaccine itself comes with risks and side effects.

What Are Side Effects Associated with the MMR Vaccine?

Symptoms and side effects occur after contracting the measles and from receiving the measles vaccine (MMR vaccine), so parents must pick the lesser of these two evils. Common side effects from the MMR vaccine include:

  • A sore arm near the injection site
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Temporary joint pain and stiffness
  • Gland swelling in the cheeks or neck

More serious side effects from the MMR vaccine that are rare but still a possibility include:

  • Severe or long-lasting shoulder pain
  • Febrile seizures
  • Low blood platelet counts and bleeding disorders
  • Serious allergic reactions
  • Severe brain swelling
  • Brain damage
  • Deafness
  • Coma
  • Other serious injuries
  • Death

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about the MMR vaccine’s association with autism. While two studies showed the MMR vaccine causes autism, numerous other studies, paid for by the CDC, dispute this evidence. Additionally, as of November 30, 2018, there have been more than 93,179 reports of measles vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following measles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 459 related deaths, 6,936 hospitalizations, and 1,748 related disabilities. Over 50% of those adverse events occurred in children three years old and under.

And as of January 2, 2019, there had been 1,258 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following MMR vaccination, including 82 deaths and 1,176 serious injuries. Additional evidence has been published in the medical literature that vaccinated persons can get measles because either they do not respond to the vaccine or the vaccine’s efficacy wanes over time and vaccinated mothers do not transfer long lasting maternal antibodies to their infants to protect them in the first few months of life.

hand holding syringe and vaccine

What Are the Other Dangers of Vaccines?

In addition to the possible side effects associated with the MMR vaccine, parents must consider human error during MMR vaccination administration. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Vaccine, from years 2000-2013 researchers identified 20,585 vaccine error reports documenting 21,843 errors. Examples of errors reported include:

  • Inappropriate vaccine schedule errors
  • Storage and dispensing errors
  • Wrong vaccine administration errors

Researchers who conducted the study report that vaccination error reports have increased substantially over the years, and prevention strategies should be considered to reduce human error pertaining to vaccine administration.

doctor vaccinating baby

Should I Vaccinate My Children?

The decision of whether or not to vaccinate your child can be a tricky one, as you must weigh the pros and cons of contracting the measles virus with the possible risks of MMR vaccinations. The CDC encourages young children to receive the MMR vaccine and says the vaccine is much safer than contracting the measles. However, due to the low incidence of measles in the U.S., the very low U.S. death rates associated with the disease, and the possibility of human error with vaccine administration, parents must make their own decisions about whether to vaccinate.

Eating a healthy plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods and taking dietary supplements helps strengthen your immune system and your body’s ability to ward off illness and disease naturally, just the way God intended.

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