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The Importance of the Measles Vaccine: Should We Be Vaccinated?

By: Sherin Pathickal, PharmD Candidate c/o 2016

The mandatory receipt of vaccinations as a preventive public health measure has long been a controversial issue in our society.1 Despite the popular use of immunizations, many reservations about vaccine constituents and their safety have prevailed, leading to increasing numbers of unvaccinated people.1

Opponents of vaccinations have argued that the presence of thimerosal, a preservative, can lead to the development of autism in children.2 However, studies published by the Institute of Medicine have indicated that autism still remains high in our society despite the removal of this ingredient from vaccines, lending support to the theory that autism is due to other factors such as genetics.3 In addition, opponents of vaccinations have stated that vaccines contain toxic concentration of aluminum . This too has been refuted by the FDA as it has been found that the aluminum in vaccines only accounts for approximately 1% of the amount of aluminum normally ingested through food and water.2

Many diseases for which vaccines have been developed are highly contagious, placing  unvaccinated people at a higher risk of infection. The latest measles outbreaks spurred by the lack of vaccination in a community highlight the importance of vaccinations as a preventative measure. Measles is a highly infectious virus; according to the Center for Disease Control(CDC), 90% of those who are not vaccinated will develop the disease if exposed.4  Prior to the development of a measles vaccine, the disease infected up to 4 million people in the United  States.4 Chronic disabilities hospitalizations, and death have resulted from these infections. Since  the introduction of the vaccine however, there has been a 99% decrease in the number of measles outbreak. Furthermore, nearly 84% of children worldwide have been immunized Thus, vaccinations serve as an invaluable public health measure that can help to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases.

With various organizations such as the Texas East Mountain International Church speaking out against the use of vaccinations in their communities, the number of infectious cases is on the rise. The pastor of the East Mountain International Church, Terri Pearsons, has spoken out many times about the dangers of vaccines. As a result, a substantial number of the church’s members, including children, were not vaccinated.5 This became a problem when a member of the community returned from a trip to Indonesia where she was exposed to measles and caused a rapid spread of the virus to the members of the Newark community. Upon exposure to the virus, 25 people acquired the infection. Of these 25 people, six adults and nine children were from the Eagle Mountain International Church, and 12 of these 15 members were found to not be vaccinated against measles.5 The remaining cases were reported in other counties of Texas such as Denton County, indicating that the measles outbreaks had spread throughout the state. Furthermore, while many of the adults who contracted the illness received the first part of the two dose regimen, they failed to receive the second dose which is highly recommended. Therefore, both doses are needed to ensure full protection against the disease.5  Measles is continuing to spread throughout the United States. Nearly 20 cases have broken out in New York, specifically NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.6 Despite the fact that only 20 cases have been found, nearly 600 people may have been exposed within this hospital alone.With so many people becoming infected due to this largely preventable disease, it is clear that proper education is needed to inform the society about the importance of vaccinations.

Measles is problematic because it is easily spread from person to person contact such as coughing or sneezing. Even after the infected person has left the room, the virus can still remain alive for up to two hours.7 Common symptoms of measles include cough, muscle pain, fever, and a red rash.7 The rash, which is considered to be one of the most significant signs of this illness, usually presents within three to five days of the infection and can last up to a week.7 It typically starts from the top of the body around the head, and moves down the body to the extremities.7 The rash is itchy and can be flat or raised in nature.7 There is currently no known cure for measles, and health care administrators are often only able to treat the symptoms through pain relievers, bed rest, etc.7 Although one can recover from measles, secondary complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or encephalitis increase the risk of mortality greatly.7 It is becoming clear that without proper vaccinations in our communities, measles can and will become problematic.

The incidence of measles has been fluctuating throughout the years, with already 135 cases in 2013 compared to 55 documented cases in 2012.8 The numbers alone clearly indicate that counseling about the importance of vaccinating each member over the age of one is needed for these communities in order to reduce spread of this disease.5 With over 150,000 people around the world dying from measles each year, vaccinations are proven to be a viable method of prevention. As future healthcare professionals, it is our role to underline the importance of following all vaccine recommendations and to answer any questions that our patients may have. In doing so, we, along with other healthcare professionals, can begin to work towards eradicating these preventable diseases and adequately ensure positive health outcomes for the community.


  1. Why Vaccinate? Sanofi Pasteur: Essential Truths About Immunization Web site. http: www.vaccines. com/why-vaccinate.cfm. Updated July 15, 2013. Accessed November 1, 2013.
  2. Vaccine Safety. Sanofi Pasteur: Essential Truths About Immunization Web site. http://www.vaccines.com/vaccine-side-effects.cfm. Updated July 15, 2013. Accessed November 1, 2013.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerns about Autism. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/Index.html. Updated February 3, 2014. Accessed February 3, 2014.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles Vaccination. http://www.cdc.gov/measles/vaccination.html. Updated September 12, 2013. Accessed October 29, 2013.
  5. Szabo L. Texas Measles outbreak linked to church. USA Today. August 2013.
  6. Hartocollis A. Measles outbreak may have spread in medical facilties, a New York official says. The New York Times. March 2014.
  7. Measles. The New York Times. August 1 2012.
  8. World Health Organization. Measles Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/. Accessed December 23, 2013.

[pubmed_related keyword1=”measles” keyword2=”vaccine” keyword3=”disease”]


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