Measles outbreaks – to vaccinate or not?

The Vaccine vs. Non Vaccine debate often reaches boiling point quickly, as both sides respond with religious fervour.
As I see it, all parents are motivated to keep their child healthy, but may have different ideas on how to achieve this. With urges to vaccinate on the News frequently, and on the other hand fears about autism, what do you need to know to keep your child safe?

This is sensible advice from Paediatrician Paul Thomas M.D. on the MMR vaccine.

This is sensible advice from Paediatrician Paul Thomas M.D.

“Measles, also called rubeola or English measles (as opposed to German measles, which I discuss below), is caused by the morbillivirus. This virus is so contagious that you can get it just by touching an object that an infected person has touched, or by coming into a room where someone with measles coughed hours before. It’s primarily spread from coughing and sneezing, and it is easy to recognize by the all-body rash.

This viral infection usually gives children fever, horrible congestion, a cough, and pinkeye followed by a pink raised rash that typically starts on the face and spreads down the body. The very young and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop pneumonia as a result of measles, or brain inflammation that in about one in one thousand reported cases can result in death. It’s important to understand that before there was a vaccine, measles was so common that most parents didn’t take their children to the doctor. Most cases were unreported. Only 1 in 10,000 children who got it died.

A child with measles is contagious for several days before the rash appears, which makes it easy to spread and a hard disease to contain. Once infected, you don’t get sick for seven to eighteen days. Some 90 percent of those exposed to someone with measles will get it if they have not had it before or have not been vaccinated. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that children who get measles have lifelong immunity to it. Unlike polio, which can cause a painful and sometime debilitating syndrome in survivors (called postpolio syndrome), measles seems to have no lasting ill effects. To the contrary, getting measles is associated with a reduced risk of allergies. Measles does make you or your child feel very sick, but the illness (and the accompanying rash) usually lasts for only a week. Although measles has no effective pharmaceutical treatment, resting in a darkened room (often light hurts infected people’s eyes), drinking plenty of fluids, and finding ways to relieve the itchy rash make the illness more tolerable. Cornstarch or oatmeal baths can help with itching, as can topical applications of calamine lotion or aloe vera.

Globally, children deficient in vitamin A are more likely to get measles. A Cochrane review—the gold standard in unbiased medical analysis—published in 2005 found that high doses of vitamin A given over two days can be helpful in reducing death from measles. Most people who catch measles survive the infection, especially in countries where there is good hygiene, nutrition, and access to clean water. It is very rare that children with normal, healthy, high-functioning immune systems suffer complications or death as a result of measles. Ask your parents or grandparents—you’ll be surprised how many of them had it. Although most of my friends and I had measles as children in the 1960s and survived without problems (and indeed, the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases reports that there have been no deaths from measles in the United States for over a decade), I know too well how deadly measles can be. As I mentioned in the introduction, I had a playmate in Rhodesia—Taurai was his name—who died from complications of measles. 

The MMR Vaccine for Four Year Olds
Unless you have a child who has developmental issues (language, social, or motor delays) or autism or any regression of skills since age one, I recommend the MMR vaccine for your four-year-old if he has not already had it. The MMR is a highly effective live-virus vaccine. It is important that

  • a child’s immune system be mature enough to handle a vaccine that contains three live viruses, that
  • a child be in good health when he receives this vaccine, and that
  • the neurons in the brain be sufficiently myelinated. (Myelin is the protein that coats neurons and works as an electrical insulator. When children have enough myelin coating their brain cells they can pass electrical signals most efficiently. The process of myelination lasts for several years after birth.)

While we have no large-scale studies comparing the outcomes of children who are completely unvaccinated with children who are vaccinated on the current schedule, data from a senior scientist at the CDC, William Thompson, Ph.D., shows that African American boys who received the MMR vaccine before thirty-six months of age had a 300 percent increase in the autism rate over boys who got the vaccine after thirty-six months. This study was retracted by the peer-reviewed medical journal that first published it, for reasons unknown, but the data still speaks volumes to the potential danger for some children of giving the MMR too soon.

Delaying the MMR vaccine until age three results in excellent protection against measles. It is not a good idea to inject other toxins in conjunction with three live viruses. Make sure that your child does not get any aluminium-containing vaccines in the same visit. Do not ever give acetaminophen (Tylenol) before or after this vaccine. In my practice I always give the MMR by itself. We never use the combined MMRV, which contains four viruses (measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox) and is associated with increased seizures.

If your family has a history of autism or if there are developmental delays, autoimmune issues in your child, or a family history of autoimmune disorders, or if a child is homozygous for the MTHFR C677T mutation, I do not recommend this vaccine.

Reading Vaccine Package Inserts
To be completely informed about any vaccine or medication, parents need to get in the habit of reading package inserts before going to well baby visits. Vaccine package inserts are readily available online. Be savvy as you review the information. The inserts usually contain long lists of side effects, which are also reported in people given the placebo. In most cases they report that the side effects of the vaccines match those of the placebo. Why is that? It often has to do with the study design. When testing the HPV vaccine, researchers used an aluminium-containing injection (instead of saline) for the placebo group for the initial HPV trials. They then used individuals who were given the first generation of the HPV vaccine as the control group and compared them to individuals getting the newer HPV vaccine. Is it any wonder that the “control groups” had nearly identical side effects to the vaccine groups being tested? I recently talked to a parent who was upset to learn from the package insert that the MMR vaccine we had given her child was manufactured from cells grown from aborted fetal tissue. “I would never have agreed to get that vaccine if I had known,” she said. I strongly recommend you read every vaccine insert before your child’s well child visit.



Thomas, Paul Md,Margulis, Jennifer Phd. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health-from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years. Random House Publishing Group.