A pediatrician is warning that the movement against mandatory vaccinations of children has become so powerful that it's only a matter of time before a major outbreak of measles strikes the United States.
In an op-ed written for the New York Times, Dr. Peter J. Hotez writes that 2017 is looking like the year where the anti-vaxxer movement's success at scaring parents away from vaccinating their kids will lead to "a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains" -- and it will start with outbreaks of measles in American children.
"When the percentage of children in a community who have received the measles vaccine falls below 90 percent to 95 percent, we can start to see major outbreaks, as in the 1950s when four million Americans a year were infected and 450 died," writes Hotez, who is a pediatrician at the Baylor College of Medicine, and also the director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. "Worldwide, measles still kills around 100,000 children each year."
Hotez says this problem is particularly acute in his home state of Texas, where "more than 45,000 children here had received nonmedical exemptions for their school vaccinations." The "ground zero" for measles in Texas is most likely to be Gaines County, located in the western part of the state, where 4.8% of students have been awarded "conscientious exemptions" that allow them to skip vaccinations.
The movement against mandatory vaccinations has grown consistently over the past several years, and President Donald Trump has given the movement legitimacy after he met with top anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to discuss forming a group to reassess America's public health policy when it comes to vaccinations.
But as Hotez makes clear in his op-ed, all concerns about vaccinations leading to autism are based on junk science -- and they could have deadly repercussions for children across the country.
"Parents in Texas have to live in fear that something as simple as a trip to the mall or the library could expose their babies to measles and that a broader outbreak could occur," the doctor warns.