Q: The mother of a couple of small children that want to play with my children refuses to let them have the measles vaccination. Should I tell her that I don’t want her children near mine unless they are vaccinated? I know the risks are small, but I know measles is a serious disease. Their mother thinks that the vaccinations are risky and unnecessary.
A: In the United States, rates of measles are usually fairly low, with just 61 cases in 2010. Since 1997, measles cases have ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 220 in 2011.
Before the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations were routinely used in 1971, there were as many as 500,000 cases and 500 U.S. deaths per year.
I was a victim of measles in the late 1960s, had a fever of 104 for about a week and suffered some permanent scarring on my heart.
Recently there has been a minor outbreak of 14 cases or more in the Stokes County and Orange County area of North Carolina that have been traced to an unvaccinated individual who travelled to India and spread the virus after returning to the United States.
The mother who refuses to vaccinate her children may have heard that MMR vaccines cause autism. This began with an article in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998 in which 12 children were studied.
In 2004, a much larger study in the same journal compared 1,294 children with autistic spectrum disorders with 4,469 unaffected children and concluded that the MMR vaccination does not raise the risk of autism or other autism spectrum disorders.
Since then, numerous reputable scientific studies have confirmed there is absolutely no link between the vaccine and autism.
Deciding whether to allow these children to play with yours is up to you. First try to reason with their mother and explain that it is not just her children who could catch this dangerous childhood infection, but they also risk passing it on to others.
It is estimated that for every person vaccinated, at least 20 people are prevented from catching the disease. I also understand that most daycare centres insist on vaccination certificates being provided before children are accepted.
Clare Rowson is a retired medical doctor in Belleville, Ont. Contact: [email protected]