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Measles In The Vaccination Age: Is It Now Deadlier? by Sandy Gottstein

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One of the statistics that is bandied about these days is that 1-3 out of 1000 die of measles in developed countries like the United States. 

If that is the case, however, it begs the question, “Why?”  Because, in the past, at least in the United States, the death rate from measles was considerably lower. 

The Washington Post and others have reported that measles has become more deadly because the epidemiology has shifted to infants and adults, for whom the disease is more serious.   

As I stated in my 1993 testimony to the Institute of Medicine: 

“We also cannot ignore the impact of vaccines on changing epidemiology when considering their risks and benefits.  For instance, measles may have been made a more serious disease because of measles vaccination.  Prior to widespread vaccination, once a population had been exposed to measles, few adults or infants contracted it, adults due to lifelong immunity and infants due to maternal antibodies.  (For more, read this Scandals) Now, adults AND infants are getting the measles, with serious consequences.  I would like to include reference to a recent Washington Post article entitled:  Measles Still Menace to Infants: Vaccinated Moms Pass Less Immunity to Babies’.  In this article it was noted that although in 1976 3% of measles cases occurred in children less than one, today more than 25% do.  The author also indicated that prior to vaccination, 3 to 4 million measles cases occurred with around 500 deaths.  This would make the case-fatality ratio for that period between 1 to 2 per 10,000.  In the years 1989, 1990 and 1991 combined, however, it was reported that around 55,000 people got the measles and 166 died, making the case-fatality ratio dramatically higher at 3 out of 1,000.  At this rate, fewer than 175,000 cases per year would be necessary to result in the same number of deaths which used to occur when there were millions of cases.” 

While as reported by Elisabeth Rosenthal, in the New York Times in 1991, “Officials at the Centers for Disease Control note that the death rates may be somewhat inflated because mild cases of measles are probably not being reported. 

Such underreporting would make death rates artificially high.  Atkinson (of the CDC) said there may be twice as many cases nationally as have been reported.” 

She went on to write: But many doctors still believe the trend is real and alarming.  ‘The death rates are clearly much higher this time around, and the hospitalization rate is extraordinary.’ said Dr. Samuel Katz, professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical School who is a measles expert.” 

And as I wrote in an open letter to the producers and sponsors of NBC’s “ER”, which garnered many hundreds of signatures: 

“An example of an unexamined ‘fact’ you presented to your viewers was the statement that 1 out of 500 measles cases die.  Perhaps your sources did not explain this to you, but the U.S. measles death rate used to be far lower prior to vaccination.   So if this statistic is correct, one should ask what is the likely reason for this increased measles death rate.  The probable cause is that adults and infants, for whom measles can be quite serious, now get the measles, rather than children, for whom it is generally benign.  (Please bear in mind that the greater risk for adults and infants is not our opinion, but the opinion of many, including Dr. Sam Katz, one of the developers of the measles vaccine.  In a chapter on measles vaccine in the Third Edition of ‘Vaccines, he writes with two others:  ‘The risk of serious complications and death is increased in infants and adults.’  And later, ‘The highest risk of death was in children younger than 1 year and adults.’)*    

*It is interesting to note that in a 1990 article on measles vaccine, written by Drs. Walter Orenstein, Director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC, and Lauri Markowitz, one of the co-authors of both the 1990 article and the Katz article and formerly of the CDC, it was stated:  ‘From 1950 to 1959, an annual average of more than 500,000 cases and 500 deaths were reported.  However, the true number of infections was estimated to be 10 times as high.’  In other words, if only reported cases are considered, the death rate appears to be 1/1000.  If you factor in the number of unreported cases, quite high during the era when measles was common, the death rate drops to 1/10,000.  In the more recent Katz ‘Vaccines’ article, co-written with Redd and Markowitz, it says that the death rate is 1 to 3 in 1000 cases (pg.223), even though later in the article they say that there used to be, ‘in the prevaccine era’ (pg. 229), around 500 deaths among 4,000,000 cases (actually 1.25/10,000 cases).  Either they are exaggerating the current death rate, or it has gone up.  We submit that if the death rate has risen, measles vaccine is the cause, having changed measles epidemiology so that high-risk groups now more often get the measles. “ 

Thus it would appear that the measles death rate post-vaccination has indeed become higher. 

Are we to take the fact that measles appears to have become more deadly to mean a higher death rate is a benefit of vaccination?  Or are we to acknowledge it as a risk? 

If measles vaccine fails to control measles over time, i.e., the vaccine wanes and revaccination does not work, and at the same time the disease fails to be eradicated, is our future to be filled with large outbreaks and high death rates because measles vaccine has changed the epidemiology of measles in such a way that increased  incidence among infants and adults is the result?

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for us take our heads out of the sand and thoroughly investigate the benefits and risks of vaccination without presuppositions, preconditions, or the influence of those who seek to gain financially from their use?

Sandy Gottstein 

Date: 9-13-2002