Apr 29, 2019
The measles outbreak in the U.S. continues to spread, striking around 700 people in 22 states. Some localities have finally started to recognize its seriousness and begun instituting strong measures to combat the threat of a broader epidemic.
Los Angeles County, for example, took the step of quarantining more than 900 students and staff at two universities there, UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles. People can remain quarantined for up to three weeks or until they are able to prove they’ve been vaccinated. The county is also offering free measles vaccines at its 14 public health clinics.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered residents of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to get vaccinated or face a fine of $1,000. The neighborhood has a large Hasidic Jewish community, and has been the target of a campaign falsely telling people the measles vaccine contains pig DNA, which would make it off-limits for religious Jews. The city has offered vaccines at “no or low cost.”
Even Donald Trump has found it necessary to walk back his previous false claims linking vaccines to autism to now tell people to get vaccinated.
It’s good that some of these measures are finally being taken, but it’s little bit too little, too late. It’s like putting one’s finger in a dike while it’s bursting at the seams. What measures are taken, including requirements for vaccination, vary by state and locality, as does the availability of free vaccines. And what are those who wind up quarantined supposed to do about jobs and school?
Measles was declared eradicated in 2000, but not enough was done to prevent its return. Public health education campaigns to combat the various misinformation efforts could have been carried out long before the current outbreak. Vaccines could have been given cheaply and conveniently for everyone, and “mandatory” requirements more strictly enforced.
Measles’ return is a symptom of a society moving backward instead of forward.