Has the anti-vaccine movement affected public health?

The Council of Foreign Relations created an interactive map showing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness, such as measles or whooping cough.

The Council on Foreign Relations created an interactive map showing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness, such as measles (the red dots) or whooping cough (the green dots).

The Council on Foreign Relations has put together an interactive map showing vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks around the world. Measles, Mumps, Rubella (better known to parents as the MMR) look to have a high outbreak level in Europe with whooping cough also high in America. The red represents outbreaks of measles and the green represents outbreaks of whooping cough. (You can click the screen shot above to go to the original map.)

From The Los Angeles Times:

“Aaron Carroll today offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti-vaccination movement. (H/t: Kevin Drum.) It comes from a Council on Foreign Relations interactive map of “vaccine-preventable outbreaks” worldwide 2008-2014.”

“A couple of manifestations stand out. One is the prevalence of measles in Europe — especially Britain — and the U.S. Measles is endemic in the underdeveloped world because of the unavailability of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.”

“But in the developed world it’s an artifact of the anti-vaccination movement, which has associated the vaccine with autism. That connection, promoted by the discredited British physician Andrew Wakefield and the starlet Jenny McCarthy, has been thoroughly debunked. But its effects live on, as the map shows.”

“Vaccine panic also plays a role in the shocking incidence in the U.S. of whooping cough, also beatable by a common vaccine. Researchers have pointed to the effect of “non-medical exemptions” from legally required whooping cough immunizations — those premised on personal beliefs rather than medical reasons — as a factor in a 2010 outbreak of whooping cough in California.”

Despite having the whooping cough vaccine, my son caught the whooping cough in the summer of 2009 before we moved from Georgia. He just kept coughing. I assumed it was allergies. When I took him in, my 70-something pediatrician said immediately he’s got whooping cough.

Last year Arizona had an outbreak of whooping cough. I took my youngest in because she couldn’t stop coughing and the pediatrician wasn’t sure if she had it. However, since she tested her for it, she had to keep her out of school for a week. (The test results would take a week and she couldn’t let her go to school if she suspected it.)

All of my kids have had all of their vaccines. But I did spread some of the shots out further than recommended. I was especially nervous with Lilina because of the Hannah Poling case in Athens. (Here is an explanation about the case from Time magazine.) I read about the case and knew that the family was being awarded money because of her vaccinations and to me that was scary. (The Time article explains why she was awarded a settlement so please do read it.)

So what do you think of this chart? Are you surprised by the outbreaks? Do you view vaccinations as a  public health issue or personal decision? Have your kids caught measles, mumps or rubella? Have they caught the whooping cough?

44 comments Add your comment


January 24th, 2014
2:22 am

All three of mine have all of their vaccines. There was never any question that we would get them fully vaccinated, but we did make the choice to spread out their vaccines a bit more, simply because my co-parent and I thought it a bit mean to give a child, already upset by the pediatrician visit, two or three shots at a time. Plus, we didn’t have much of a choice but to get them fully vaccinated because their school required proof of vaccinations in order to be enrolled.

For me personally, I would feel horribly irresponsible if I did not get my children vaccinated. Being sick is not a fun experience for any one, of any age. I would never want to knowingly endanger my children or knowingly make them more susceptible to diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, or even whooping cough. These diseases may not be fatal, but as someone who had mumps before the vaccine was introduced, I can say it is not a pleasant experience. While I may not agree with the choice, I do respect other parent’s rights to do for their children as they see fit. I know a lot of parents have concerns about vaccines and I think that it is a decision that should be taken very seriously and that parents should research and educate themselves. I do find the graphic a bit surprising, that the outbreak of whooping cough especially is so great right now.


January 24th, 2014
4:26 am

Vaccinations are a public health issue unless someone is home schooling.


January 24th, 2014
6:11 am

My concern is lack of access to ethical vaccines. I refuse to use vaccines that were created using the tissue of aborted babies. That’s too horrible to even contemplate! I can’t be complicit to something like that and I refuse to use them.


January 24th, 2014
7:03 am

Vaccinations save lives and parents need to have their child fully vaccinated before they enter school. Something as simple as the flu shot can save your child’s life! It’s simple, if your child goes to a public school they should have all vaccinations.

Mother of 2

January 24th, 2014
8:11 am

Vaccines are a matter of public health because you are vaccinating not just for your child’s health, but for the health of the public. These illnesses are highly contagious and can be dangerous. We travel, so vaccinating was never considered an option in our family. We also have people with auto immune diseases, asthma, and cancer in our family, so vaccinating was particularly important for all of us.

The decision to vaccinate should be made by parents and pediatricians or family doctors. Risk vs benefit need to be discussed. There is a small number of children who should not be vaccinated. It’s not my place to tell other parents what they should or should not do. But parents who are afraid of vaccinations need to have a frank conversation with their doctors and determine what is best for their children. If they choose to not vaccinate, they need to be responsible and keep their children home when they are sick, as exposing many children to potentially dangerous illnesses is a terrible practice.

Good Grief

January 24th, 2014
8:12 am

Vaccinations are a public health issue unless someone is home schooling

So you believe all those home schooled kids never have any contact with the public? Sorry but I run into scads of them daily shopping till they drop with mom and running errands. Many also play rec league sports and come into contact with many people. You also think they are able to avoid contact with the high immigrant / anti-vaccine population all around the ATL?


January 24th, 2014
8:49 am

Good Grief is right. Homeschoolers are around just as many people as kids that go to school. Especially the ones who have extracurricular activities and let me tell you some of those kids are in a lot of activities.

I always knew I would vaccinate my kids. It wasn’t worth the risk. I had chicken pox in 6th grade and let me tell you it was NOT a blast. As someone stated before I think is a parental decision, but I just could not live with myself if my child died from something that I could have easily prevented.

Side Note: I know someone is gonna give me the business for saying this but here it is. I never really bought into the vaccine autism link. I mean yeah it might have been in a few case but there are just too many vaccinated people walking around here that are not autistic for that to be the case for the majority of the case. I DO believe that it is genetic and that the things that we have put in our food may be some sort of trigger or in a few cases the vaccine was the trigger..no I am not a doctor or even in the medical field but it seems logical.


January 24th, 2014
8:52 am

I am not surprised by the charts. Too many parents believe the “sky is falling” hype over some of these vaccines and think their precious snowflake will become autistic if given the same vaccine that millions of other children have had with no issues or side effects. My daughters are vaccinated, and will continue to be for their sake, and the sake of everyone else they are around.

The top of the chart says it all- VACCINE PREVENTABLE OUTBREAKS

Hidden Agenda

January 24th, 2014
9:05 am

Silly me, I thought that if you were vaccinated you were safe from the disease. I guess all the INDEPENDENT data that shows that vaccines are basically not that effective is actually true. In addition to the aborted fetuses, there are plenty of other toxins in vaccines like Thimerosal (a mercury derivative) and plenty of other proteins that should not be injected directly into the tissues. Vaccine manufacturers (thanks to our criminal congress) are immune (pardon the pun) from any liability for the deaths/injuries their products cause. So why would they care what they put into these products? You need only go to the FDA web page to see just how many injuries and deaths are attributable to vaccines.

ATL Born and Raised

January 24th, 2014
9:23 am

@SEE & Hiden Agenda

[citations needed]

ATL Born and Raised

January 24th, 2014
9:31 am

Adverse vaccine reactions are extremely rare, especially in the common childhood vaccines that have been around for decades. You are an irresponsible parent not to have your child fully vaccinnated. Simple as that

I guess we need a good round of polio recurrence to teach these people the value of vaccines. So many people today have grown up in an America where diseases like whooping cough, measles, polio, etc are things of the past and think they don’t need to worry about them. Well, stop vaccinating and you’ll see the results.


January 24th, 2014
9:42 am

@ Mother of Two…responsible parents…few and far between! I do know a few though.

I had: chicken pox, measles and mumps. NO FUN AT ALL! My mother also had chicken pox with us and she was in her early 30’s.

Are adult measles and mumps still a concern for sterility? I am not sure.

My children received every vaccine required, while they lived with us. My daughter has not had her flu shot this year. I am not happy about it. Nor is my husband nor her brother. We have all spoken with her but she is 21 and we are not kidnapping her.

Already this year, I know several people who have had the flu. They did not get the vaccine and they have said, ” From now on I will get the vaccine. I do NOT want to go through this again EVER! It is worse than I imagined! I have never had anything like it . ”

Our son told us about this:


He was pretty angry about it and said that is he were in a church where the Pastor preached against vaccines, he would walk out.

I read this and thought it was good: Trusting your pastor on medical advice is like trusting your doctor on theological advice. ( or your vet on gardening or your dentist on baking…haha! Not as serious though in my book. )

April Mae

January 24th, 2014
10:11 am

TS, home-schooled kids leave the house, right? Assuming they do then, yes, they absolutely need to be vaccinated.

I’ve known several survivors of polio. Why on earth anyone would knowingly and deliberately leave their children vulnerable to such a disease is beyond me. Isn’t “protection from harm” a core parental responsibility?


January 24th, 2014
10:14 am

@ TWG…please look at my post for you on the Happy Place blog, before this one. I was in Florida this week and did not check the blog. Thanks!


January 24th, 2014
11:08 am

My 2 are up to date on their shots at the moment. Including the HPV oneIt never crossed my mind to say no. Why would I let them be vulnerable to horrible diseases like spinal meningitis (see TWG’s article on the outbreak in University…that was actually a part of my conversation with the doctor). Or MMR or cancer or anything else. I would no sooner drive in a car while impaired with them in it than let them play Russian Roulette with their health!

I do have friends who are anti-vaccine. I have a good friend whose husband works at the CDC, they have no children, but they both encourage people to get their shots.

I have read the literature from both my anti and my pro friends. Honestly the pro arguements far outweigh the anti ones. I do not think that the vaccinations are the reason my child is ADHD.

Good Grief

January 24th, 2014
1:14 pm

This week the media has informed me that my taste for excessive sugar will cause me more wrinkles and the caramel coloring in dark sodas are going to give me cancer. Top that will the zillions other things studies find that if I do THIS … Then I might get THAT.

I am of the age that my mom took me to chicken pox and measles visits when we were young so that we could catch the disease in our youth. My mother was the first one to tell me, or better yet demand, that I vaccinate my kids and not listen to the hysteria.

IMHO Vaccinations have done more GOOD than harm to our society, healthcare and survival.


January 24th, 2014
1:53 pm

@CC – You mention that the flu shot can save your child’s life. One of the problems with vaccine compliance is that there are so few studies that have actually explored that claim. I think there would be a lot more compliance among families who are resistant to vaccines if policy makers and vaccine proponents were more transparent and up-front with parents about the known facts regarding the various vaccines.

For example, I think many people would be shocked to find out that, according to the CDC, regarding Adults 65 years or older (with high risk chronic medical conditions), the CDC states “There are no published studies of the efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines in preventing laboratory-confirmed, serious outcomes of influenza such as hospitalization, primarily because the size of the study would be large, and therefore, such a study is very expensive to conduct.”

Really? There are NO published studies regarding serious outcomes in adults 65 years and older (with serious medical conditions)? Why not? Is this not important to verify, as to whether serious outcomes such as hospitalizations and death are reduced or not? Actual real facts and results would convince skeptics.

There was a recent news item that the flu vaccine may help prevent heart attacks, but the study sample was extremely small. We have a long way to go with research, but there appears to be a lack of interest and funding for it. Until then, you will continue to have many doubters. More facts and evidence from carefully controlled, peer reviewed, published research are needed. The current strategy of trying to increase compliance by persuasion, media hype articles that are not based on research, and trying to shame the parents into compliance is short-sighted and will continue to fail.

To read the full CDC article regarding Flu Vaccine Effectiveness: Questions and Answers for Health Professionals that the above quote is from, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectivenessqa.htm


January 24th, 2014
1:58 pm

@ WitchyWoman – If Autism was only genetic, we would not be seeing the increase we have seen in recent decades. Increased identification does not explain it all. Hopefully, we will learn the cause or causes soon.


January 24th, 2014
2:06 pm

Regarding the HPV vaccine, cancer.gov states that 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccines. I hope this is being taught to vaccinated teenagers and young adults, as they need to continue to take other precautions to prevent cervical cancer.


January 24th, 2014
2:23 pm

Atlanta Mom

January 24th, 2014
3:08 pm

From SEE’s link:
“In total only two fetuses, both obtained from abortions done by maternal choice, have given rise to cell strains used in vaccine development. Neither abortion was performed for the purpose of vaccine development. And the abortions occurred in the 1960s

Atlanta Mom

January 24th, 2014
3:10 pm

Missed the closing quote mark.
“In total only two fetuses, both obtained from abortions done by maternal choice, have given rise to cell strains used in vaccine development. Neither abortion was performed for the purpose of vaccine development”


January 24th, 2014
3:21 pm

@ Ann- I’m not saying that every case is genetic, but I do believe that in most there is a genetic precursor that is triggered by a catalyst. How else do you explain families with 4 and 5 children that are all Autistic. Some families are more genetically prone to other diseases, so why not autism. This also means that in some cases some people with the genetic precursor will get the condition and some will not. Thus the families with only one child that is Autistic. As far as increase in identification, I honestly think that in many cases children are over diagnosed. There are a lot of previous conditions that they are now being placed under the autism umbrella. What use to be called mental retardation, then mentally impaired, is now often labeled as autism. Autism has a stigma, but it does “sound” better than mentally retarded. I have worked with children that ranged from having mild aspergers to extremely severe autism, so I am not one of those people who doesn’t believe it exists or is a lie. What I do believe is that just like ADHD in the 90s this label is now used as a CYA for doctors..a kind of just in case. All of this just my opinion though. Yeah, some of the stuff like having a genetic precursor and not getting a condition can be scientifically proven, but for the most part this stuff is just my view of the situation.


January 24th, 2014
3:43 pm

we are a strange society – we send people to prison for slapping a child but indulge the irrationality/irresponsbility of parents who refuse to vaccinate when it’s functionally equivalent to letting them ride w/o seat belts or driving drunk/texting with them in car… you’re needless/recklessly endangering their lives & the lives of others! why the H___ do we indulge these people?

Real Life

January 24th, 2014
4:38 pm

One of my nieces nearly died from the chicken pox. My then sister-in-law did not believe in vaccines and chose not to get her any. She had a good friend who helped her obtain a religious exemption to getting her daughter vaccines, even though they did not belong to a religion that objected.
When my niece was nearly 6 (in 2000) she came down with chicken pox that spread to her brain. Horrible is the best description I can give. Nearly 2 months in the hospital and then therapy for nearly 2 years all to satisfy a mom who thought that vaccines were not needed in her family. Her mother lost custody to one of her sisters and my niece is doing well now. And everyone in the family gets their vaccinations. We have seen first hand the dangers of going without.


January 24th, 2014
4:55 pm

@ Real Life..”We have seen first hand the dangers of going without.”

This sums it up. As parents, we weigh the risk and have to make decisions for our children. Nothing is 100% but when protection is out there and we ignore it, that is sad.


January 24th, 2014
6:37 pm

To those who jumped on and misconstrued my comment I will offer more.

1. Are vaccinations a good idea?
2. Should the government mandate vaccinations since they are a public health issue?

1. Yes, in most cases.
2. Not necessarily. But certainly educate the public on this important subject.

If a public school or other organization wants to set a policy for their students, members, etc. I don’t necessarily have a problem with it.

On a related topic do you realize there is no vaccination requirement for visitors to the U.S.? Any comment on that?


January 24th, 2014
6:56 pm

This notion that the risk only comes from those who did not vaccinate or chose not to vaccinate is simply not accurate. The CDC states that persons vaccinated with chicken pox can still get chicken pox, but a milder case. So, you can be exposed to chicken pox from those who were vaccinated as well.

There are also a lot of groups the CDC advises against getting the chicken pox vaccine. It is a lengthy list that includes a fairly large percentage of the general population. The list includes:
1. People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
2. People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.
3. Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine.
4. Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get chickenpox vaccine, including anyone who:
Has HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer
Has any kind of cancer
Is getting cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get chickenpox vaccine.

The above covers a lot of folks. This issue is much more complex than the usual debate we hear.

Atlanta Mom

January 24th, 2014
7:04 pm

In this day and age of each individual getting to make their own decisions about vaccines, we would never eliminate small pox or polio. And now adults have to get whooping cough vaccines because people are so concerned about their little snowflakes getting a vaccine. It’s all about “me” these days.


January 24th, 2014
7:21 pm

Lengthy list? There are 3 groups recommended not to get it and only one of those is a permanent state — people allergic to the contents of the vaccine (duh). Pregnant women and folks with bugs should wait. The fourth group is not told not to get vaccinated, just to consult with their doctors, and the categories sound like people who would be told to talk to their doctor before pretty much anything medical. Pretty standard stuff — not all that complex.


January 24th, 2014
7:35 pm

@HB – The CDC also advises anyone immune comprised to avoid it. That includes a lot of people with immune suppresive disorders. A significantly large percentage of the population have cancer and for a lot of folks, it’s not temporary. My point is that it is foolish to think that the majority of the population is vaccinated against chicken pox or anything else. And, by complex, I mean that the situation is not the “dumbed down” headline of only parents choosing not to vaccinate that pose risk,

An example of a misleading headline. The chart referenced in the blog implies that outbreaks are due to an increase in people choosing to vaccinate. I didn’t see any specific research quoted in the article. The Whooping Cough outbreak in California was shown to have several causes, including the cyclical nature of pertussis, improved diagnosis, waning immunity (which occurs after the 5th dose) and increased non-vaccination. Increase in non-vaccination was shown to be one of several factors. But, which factor made the headlines and is spun to the public to be the main reason? The LA Times article refers to vaccine opponents as charlatans and fanatics. This was not an objective scientifically based article.


January 24th, 2014
8:27 pm

Meant to type in the above comment an “increase in people choosing not to vaccinate”.


January 24th, 2014
11:42 pm

Ann, people aren’t generally born with cancer. It’s rarely a lifelong, permanent illness. A majority of people in the U.S. would be vaccinated for measles, polio, etc. long before being diagnosed with cancer. As for the very small percentage of people who can never be vaccinated, they rely on those who can to help protect them by lessening the diseases spread.


January 25th, 2014
5:50 am

In 1962 a Swedish woman who was four months pregnant had a legal abortion because she did not want another child. The lungs of the foetus were removed and sent to Philadelphia. At the Wistar Institute for Anatomy and Biology they were minced up, processed and cultured by Leonard Hayflick. He had been culturing cells from aborted foetuses for years, even though abortion was technically illegal in Pennsylvania at the time, except for medical emergency.

So, you see there was more than one aborted child used. Do you really want to be a part of that?

Link: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/facing-up-to-vaccines-created-with-aborted-fetal-cells


January 25th, 2014
10:12 am

People should keep in mind that vaccines do wear off the older we get. It might be something worth talking with the doctor about before or when you’re getting a vaccine.


January 25th, 2014
2:29 pm

All three of my kids are vaccinated. I personally don’t want UN-vaccinated kids anywhere near me or my children. If that’s your choice, keep the sickness with you.


January 25th, 2014
2:57 pm

My kiddo is vaccinated too and will continue to be. I don’t want unvaccinated kids near her. If that’s a choice you make for your family, don’t send them to public school (you probably can’t anyways), and don’t bother using a licensed doctor. You’re not listening to them/taking them seriously so why clog up the waiting room.

I think the increase In autism diagnoses has in part been linked to the decrease in the diagnosis of, ‘mental retardation.’ Overall, it’s a label-change where kids were once deemed ‘retarded’ are now ‘on the spectrum.’
Sorry about all the air-quoting.


January 25th, 2014
5:28 pm

Those genuinely interested infant well-being will also want to view this powerful commentary on abortion, by Fox’s Brit Hume: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zEs4pD9Dn14


January 25th, 2014
6:46 pm

it should be up to the parents. After all those that choose to NOT vaccine are the ones supposedly in danger, not the ones who did…I had both measles and mumps, also chicken pox. It wasnt bad, hard to keep us kids down and in a dark room (the measles) and the others itched, but there was cornstarch and calamine for that. We survived and were very healthy kids/adults.


January 25th, 2014
11:31 pm

I don’t understand how people who have never finished high school, let alone college, think they can make better decisions than passionate individuals who have more than a decade of training, and many more years of research in their field. These professionals live and breathe their work, spend their free time at conferences and reading journals, and willingly volunteer to help our government make difficult decisions regarding public health.

But hey, if you heard if on The View, it must be true.


January 26th, 2014
10:35 am

I was given a list of required/recommended vaccinations from my doctor when my child was 3 months old there were 26 injections listed between birth and 30 months. 26!! Had my doctor just presented me with the normal Polio, DPT and MMR schedule I would have been fine. But they have to add in Pneumonia, 2 strains of hepatitis, chicken pox, flu vaccine, on and on and on so I started researching. Ultimately my kids had every vaccine except pneumonia and one hepatitis shot but I spread them out. I was able to do so because my kids were not in school/daycare.
My family does not get the flu shot.
@ Me. I understand what you’re saying but the with doctors and pharmaceutical companies so much in bed together I don’t totally trust their recommendations. Our society is WAY too overmedicated and I think 26 injections before the age of 2 1/2 is a reflection of that. I am a STRONG believer in vaccines and very thankful for modern medicine but we can’t afford to not think for ourselves.


January 26th, 2014
9:11 pm

God is my MD.


January 27th, 2014
10:47 am

Well, my OPINION is that God created doctors and the talented research people who discovered and produced vaccines. My kids are vaccinated. Period. When I had to spend several months in China last year, you should have SEEN the list of vaccines I had to get — good lord. You don’t realize how lucky you are until you see what other parts of the world have to deal with.

It’s like the man who sat on a rooftop during a flood, who kept declaring that God would save him, even though a raft floated by, a rescue team paddled up, and even a helicopter came to save him. No, he said, God would save him! He died, and when he met God, he pouted, “I thought you would save me!” God, in exasperation, said, “I sent a raft, a boat and a helicopter — what more did you want?”


January 27th, 2014
10:53 am

@kdn: I, too, had all the “childhood diseases” — both measles (German and red), mumps, chix pox, whooping cough, etc. My mother said she was terrified when I had whooping cough, and it went on for weeks, causing her and my father to lose time from work to care for me. (New parents in a new town — not too many options when the babysitter refuses to come when the baby is sick.) The red measles knocked me out of school for two weeks, and ended up damaging my eyesight. I had a very light case of chicken pox, but a baby in the neighborhood a year later died from complications of it. So while your mileage may vary, please don’t dismiss these diseases as a mere inconvenience. They aren’t the common cold — they are DISEASES and need to be treated with respect, and if there’s something out there that will protect my children from getting them, I’m all over it.