Per Wikipedia:  “Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days. Initial symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes. Small white spots known as Koplik’s spots may form inside the mouth two or three days after the start of symptoms. A red, flat rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body typically begins three to five days after the start of symptoms. Common complications include diarrhea (in 8% of cases), middle ear infection (7%), and pneumonia (6%). Less commonly seizures, blindness, or inflammation of the brain may occur. Other names include morbilli, rubeola, red measles, and English measles. Rubella, which is sometimes called German measles, and roseola are different diseases caused by unrelated viruses.”

There is more fear, uncertainty, and doubt among healthcare providers and media outlets about this disease than any other, with the possible exceptions of polio and smallpox.

Examine this graph closely, and note that this does not indicate the number of infections per 100,000 individuals, but deaths.  Currently in the United States, we have a death rate of under 1 in 100,000 individuals infected, with death rates in other developed western nations ranging between 1 in 800 to 1 in 1000, typically affecting those that are immunocompromised or severely malnourished.  To get further confirmation, compare the previous graph and statistics to mortality rates in the UK:

Other serious complications of measles can include hearing loss in 0.1-3.4% of cases.

Is this frightening?  Perhaps.  What it isn’t, however, is the death sentence that healthcare practitioners and the media make it out to be.  What goes unspoken in all of these statistics is that those at the greatest risk of serious complications or death from measles are infants (under the vaccination age), adults, and the elderly.  Given that measles has the lowest rate of complications in young children, and that the vaccine only confers a degree of immunity for as little as 10-12 years, in some respects we could be placing our children in greater danger later in life by preventing exposure to measles while they are young.  Unlike vaccine-derived immunity, natural immunity derived through infection truly lasts a lifetime.

To put the statistics presented into perspective, one must only look at the broad ranges in the statistics.  For example, hearing loss may affect 1 in 1000 people (0.1%), or it might affect 1 in 29 (3.4%).  If one trusts the previously linked CDC page, it might only affect 1 in 50,000 (0.002%).  When such a broad range of findings are presented in a study, especially when compared to actual reports by government health services, there are two assumptions that can safely be made:  the author doesn’t know what the actual range is and is taking statistical samples from wildly conflicting reports, and because the reports are wildly conflicting, there are confounding co-factors that cause them to disagree.  For example, in this instance, poor nutrition or poor health-care services could have negatively affected the population demonstrating high rates of hearing loss.  Alternatively, the sample might have been artificially selected for through a number of means.  Perhaps the “infected population” was limited to those that reported infection (as was the case in the European mortality statistics above).  Perhaps the “infected population” was limited to those that were hospitalized, or those that were at a single facility for specific complications.  The truth of the matter is that we don’t know this information.

What we do know is this:  historically, measles deaths and serious complications are most commonly seen in infants, adults, and the elderly.  According to the CDC, in the years prior to the measles vaccine becoming available in 1963, death rates were approximately 1 in 8000, and neurological complications were approximately 1 in 4000 … assuming you ignore the different statistics provided on a different page in the same section which shows these rates to be around an order of magnitude rarer.  Over 60 years later, with the availability of better nutrition and medicine, these rates would inevitably be lower.  To put this into perspective, people in the US have a 1 in 3000 chance of being struck by lightning during their lifetime.

In a peer response to the BMJ about a study blaming US measles outbreaks on low vaccination rates, Dr. Meryl Nass wrote the following:

“There have been only 3 deaths from measles in the US since 2000: one in a 75 year old male who was exposed in Israel; one in a 13 year old immunosuppressed male who had received a bone marrow transplant 3 months premortem, who lacked any identified exposure to a measles case; and one in an immunosuppressed woman with multiple comorbidities. Whether any of these deaths was caused by a vaccine strain is unknown, but since vaccine strain measles can be virulent in an immunocompromised host, it is possible.” … “Even when all eligible children are vaccinated, there will remain those who cannot be vaccinated with live vaccines, and those who fail to achieve immunity from their immunizations. Even after 2 doses, the mumps vaccine is only 86% efficacious. (6) Measles vaccine is 85-95% efficacious after one dose, (7) and 90-98% after two.(8) In US and Canadian measles outbreaks, up to 50% of those developing measles have received two doses of MMR. (8) Thus, there will continue to be disease outbreaks, with or without ending the practice of vaccine exemptions.” … “During the past 30 years, approximately 89,000 adverse reactions, including about 450 deaths, have been reported to the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for measles vaccines.”

What is curious is that nothing that Dr. Nass stated is controversial in the medical community, it is solely reflective of a difference in how one wishes to frame a particular narrative.

Vaccine Statistics

When debating informed consent, it is important that people calculate the risk versus the reward for all options.  Here are some facts, according to VAERS and the CDC.

  • Since 2003, there has been only one (possible) measles related child death in the US.
  • Since 2003, there have been at least 96 deaths reported to VAERS associated with the measles vaccine.
  • Since 2003, there have been 57,019 adverse events reported to VAERS, with the vast majority of them falling between the ages of 1-5 years.
  • Since 1986, there have been 85,540 adverse events reported to VAERS, with the vast majority of them falling between the ages of 1-5 years.

With no other data, it is clear that children face a greater risk of death from the measles vaccine than they do from measles itself, if it assumed that that child is considered in isolation.  When the bigger picture is looked at, the numbers get fuzzier.  Since 2003, there have been an average of 3.8 million live births in the US annually.  With 92% vaccination rates across the country, this equates to approximately 3.5 million children being vaccinated per year, leaving the odds of death at approximately 1 in 550,000 from receiving the measles vaccine.  If the FDA’s assessment of reporting compliance is correct (<1%), these odds could be as low as 1 in 5500, making it far more risky to get the vaccine than the disease.  The problem with calculation, however, is that we simply do not know the true number of deaths attributable to the measles vaccine due to our faulty reporting system.  Other statistics (based upon estimated numbers of doses administered per the above calculation) reported since 2003 (rate reported/rate possible per FDA):

  •  552 immediately life threatening complications (1 in 95,000/1 in 950)
  • 489 permanent disabilities (1 in 107,000/1 in 1070)
  • 1926 hospitalizations or extensions of hospitalization (1 in 27000/1 in 270)
  • 16,532 emergency room or office visits related to complications (1 in 3100/1 in 31)

Some of the possible rates per the FDA are too chilling to want to believe, and to be perfectly honest, we are skeptical of them.  This is the greatest problem with estimating risk versus reward when real numbers are deliberately obscured.

According to Merck, only 95% of children develop antibodies to measles post-vaccination, and both government agencies (such as the CDC’s estimate of 93%) and skeptics have called this rate of conversion into question.  Despite being subjected to the risks described above, and using the most favorable conversion statistics, 1 in 20 children will not receive the benefit of 12+ years of immunity from measles.

Vaccine Safety

Vaccine Typelive attenuated/potential vector of transmission*

Pregnancy ClassC

This section will reference the product insert from Merck’s MMR II vaccine.  It should be noted that measles vaccines (all types) are one of the few vaccines on the market that doesn’t use aluminum adjuvants.

Contraindications (do not vaccinate):

  • Hypersensitivity to eggs, beef, gelatin, or neomycin
  • Fever
  • Immunosuppressed (steroids, etc.) or immunocompromised
  • Pregnant, or may become pregnant within 3 months
  • History of brain injury or family history of convulsions
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • Reaction to previous administration of MMR
Adverse Reactions (as reported by Merck):

  • Panniculitis, atypical measles, fever, syncope, headache, dizziness, malaise, irritability, vasculitis, pancreatitis, diarrhea, vomiting, parotitis, nausea, diabetes mellitus, thrombocytopenia, purpura, regional lymphadenopathy, anaphylaxis, bronchospasm,  arthritis, arthralgia, myalgia, polyneuritis, encephalitis, encephalopathy, measles inclusion body encephalitis, subacute sclerosing panecephalitis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, transverse myelitis, febrile convulsions, afebrile convulsions/seizures, ataxia, polyneuropathy, ocular palsies, paresthesia, aseptic meningitis, pneumonia, pneumonitis, sore throat, cough, rhinitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, erythema multiforme, urticaria, rash, pruritis, burning/stinging at injection site, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, acute hemorrhagic edema of infancy, nerve deafness, otitis media, retinitis, optic neuritis, papillitis, retrobulbar neuritis, conjunctivitis, epididymitis, orchitis, and death.


Scientific Studies

Editor’s Opinion

In the US, with current vaccination rates, assuming lifetime coverage per vaccinated individual, and assuming that >90% of individuals with reported measles are not vaccinated, an unvaccinated child has a 1 in 150,000 chance of contracting measles in any given year.  Even using the most inflated statistics, this is a vanishingly small chance of infection.  Using the worst-case statistics provided above (1 in 29 suffering hearing loss, which is absurd!), this means that an individual child has a 1 in 4,240,000 chance of suffering a serious complication of measles, and (at a death rate of 1 in 800, over 100 times greater than the CDC’s values) a 1 in ~120,000,000 chance of dying from measles in any given year.  This is comparable to the risk of death from stepping into the shower.  Even ignoring the hundreds of thousands of reports from parents who claim their child regressed into autism after receiving the MMR vaccine, given the risks posed by the vaccine, we do not recommend that anyone administer the measles vaccine to their child in today’s society.