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Sudden outbreak of measles linked to vaccine fears in the 1990s

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Woman getting flu shot (Credit: NIH Record)
Woman getting flu shot (Credit: NIH Record)

Fears that vaccines cause autism led to an explosion of measles cases this year in southwest Wales, according to The Wall Street Journal. Between November and July, 1,219 people in southwest Wales contracted the measles, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011, according to the report.

The Journal links the outbreak to a since-discredited 1998 study by the British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who speculated about a link between the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella and the growing number of autism cases. The study was heavily covered by the South Wales Evening Post, a local newspaper. By the end of 1998, the number of 2-year-olds who received the vaccine fell by 14 percent, compared with 2.4 percent in the rest of the country.

"There seems to still be a small residue of humanity that objects to the very idea of immunization."

The outbreak was declared over July 3. But the effects of fewer people being vaccinated continue to be felt globally. In the United States, there have been 117 reported cases of measles so far this year, up from 54 in all of 2012. In England, cases are up 64 percent year over year, reaching their highest levels since 1994.

"Despite the fact that it's one of the greatest health measures ever invented by man or woman, there seems to still be a small residue of humanity that objects to the very idea of immunization," Welsh doctor Dai Lloyd told the Journal. "If you go around the cemetery you can see the historical evidence of childhood slaughter from pre-immunization days."