Vaccines Save Lives


By Brianne McCurley

The most recent measles cases are tied to an outbreak originating in Disneyland and another theme park in Southern California. Victims are now reported in 14 states. The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging parents to vaccinate their children rather than delaying or refusing the shots. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that 90 percent of people who come in contact with the disease and are not vaccinated will contract it. Children aren’t administered the first dose of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine until 12 months old and the second dose between ages four and five. Therefore, children under one year of age are at a high risk of being infected. The CDC has reported 102 cases in 2015, already and that number will likely increase.

The latest measles outbreak can be blamed on unvaccinated people traveling abroad, contracting the disease and returning to the U.S. Measles is still highly endemic in Africa and Asia. Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected when they travel abroad. The United States declared measles eliminated in the year 2000. This is a direct result of the vaccination.


What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system, immune system and skin. It is spread from person to person from coughing or sneezing. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, sore throat and Koplik’s spots (white spots inside the mouth). Three to five days after symptoms emerge, a reddish-brown body rash will appear on the face and move downward until it covers the entire body. The rash typically lasts up to eight days. The virus can live up to two hours on a surface or in the air. An infected person can spread the virus from four days before to four days after the rash appears. There is no specific treatment for measles, but most people recover after a few days. Roughly 15 percent of infected people require hospitalization. Measles can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, brain damage and deafness. One or two out of 1,000 children with measles will die, according to the CDC.


The measles vaccination became available in 1963. Before it was developed, the virus infected more than 500,000 Americans per year, causing 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations. Vaccinations are given to people of all ages starting at birth. The CDC recommends the following immunizations according to age:

Birth Through Six Years Old

Haemophilus influenza type bHib
Hepatitis AHepA
Hepatitis BHepB
Measles, Mumps, RubellaMMR
Tetanus, Diphtheria, PertussisDTaP

Seven to 18 Years Old

Cervical CancerHuman Papillomavirus
Bacterial MeningitisMeningococcal Conjugates
Tetanus, Diphtheria, PertussisDTap
Hepatitis BHepB

After age 18, it is recommended that people get the flu shot every year and the DTaP vaccine every 10 years; otherwise, vaccinations are given depending on a person’s health condition. For a complete immunization schedule, visit vaccines/schedules.

The CDC recommends that children get vaccinated against measles in two doses distributed at 12 months of age and again at four to five years of age. The vaccine is considered safe and effective 97 percent of the time. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the measles vaccination resulted in a 75 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide.

The result of delaying or refusing vaccinations is the main cause of the rise of preventable diseases. The Lancet, a UK medical journal, sponsored a study in 1998 that claimed a link existed between the measles vaccination and bowel disease and autism. The report was later declared a fraud, but the damage was already done. It received worldwide media coverage and led many people to question the safety of the measles vaccine. This belief is still apparent in the U.S. culture today. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to educate themselves and talk to their doctors about the importance of vaccinating their children per the recommended schedule. Vaccination rates remain in the 90th percentile; however, this is still five percent lower than recommended. People who choose not to vaccinate their children put others at risk of contracting diseases that are absolutely preventable, such as measles. Vaccinations have saved the lives of millions of children and will continue to do so.

Extension Questions

  • What are the risks of delaying or not vaccinating children?
  • What are the benefits of vaccinating children?