The controversial measles outbreak
In the middle of December 2014, a tourist among tens of thousands that each year visit the Disneyland amusement park, located in the city of Anaheim, California, was enjoying a day in the recreational complex and, unknowingly, becoming “patient zero” in the latest public health controversy that has the country divided: the worst outbreak of measles to rock the US since this disease was stamped out in 2000. With over one hundred cases confirmed in 14 states, -- Pennsylvania among them with at least one case in Cumberland County—the matter will soon enter the political sphere, reopening the debate on vaccination in the country.
From president Obama –who encouraged the population to vaccinate their children in an interview for NBC News : “There are all types of reasons to be vaccinated and not one, not to”, adding, “you should vaccinate your children”—to the controversial statements made by the Governor of New Jersey, and potential Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie, a firm supporter of the freedom of parents to decide on the matter –and who was forced to retract a few hours later issuing a release in which he ensured that “in cases such as measles, there are no doubts, children must be vaccinated”--. Hilary Clinton was even more categorical, supporting Obama’s words through Twitter, “Science is clear: the earth is round, the sky is blue and vaccines work. Let’s protect all of our children #GrandmothersKnowBest”. There are fewer consensuses in the heart of the Republican Party, where the latest declarations from many of its members evidence the existing difference of opinion. And so, while politicians such as John Boehner, chairman of the House of Representatives, are in favor of that stated by the US president; others, such as Rand Paul, though confessing that both he and his children are vaccinated, unleash the controversy upon ensuring, in an interview, that in the majority of cases, this practice should be voluntary.
Currently, 19 states, Pennsylvania among them, defend the right of parents not to vaccinate their children, for personal or ethical reasons. A fact that, though not posing a health threat, places Pennsylvania at the back of a long list of states with a lower rate of vaccinated minors, with a figure of close to 85% in the 2013/2014 campaign, according to the data of the US Center for Disease Prevention and Control; a figure only surpassed by Colorado (81.7%). While Mississippi, with a 99.7 vaccination percentage, leads the country in this matter.