When I was a young child, measles still killed thousands of children per year. But since then, breakthroughs in vaccination research - coupled with laws mandating the vaccine for all children attending school or day care -- has allowed America to virtually eradicate measles as a concern.
But now, that progress is being threatened.
Because of unfounded fears that the measles vaccine may cause autism in young children, too many people are insisting that their children not be vaccinated, citing religious objections. The problem is, this is causing the percentage of vaccinated children to drop to the point where measles epidemics could once again become a real problem.
Some parents may say "We'll take that risk." But since many children can't take the vaccine because of particular diseases of deficient immune systems - and a small percentage simply don't respond to the vaccine -- they're putting them at risk, too. And for no good reason.
No matter what noted medical expert Jenny McCarthy may say, the measles vaccine does not cause autism. The single study in 1998 that purported to prove it does has since been retracted because of dishonesty and unethical behavior by its author.
Despite the hysterical Internet rumors, failing to vaccinate your child is a selfish, ill-informed decision that puts everyone else's children at risk as well as yours. And we need to be smarter than that.