Amid multiple measles outbreaks across the country, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday released a statement reassuring the public that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and effective.
In recent years, misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines has led to low vaccination rates in certain communities. Despite efforts in some jurisdictions to close loopholes that allowed parents to avoid vaccinating their children, many have found other ways
to get around vaccination requirements.
“It deeply concerns us when we see preventable diseases like measles or mumps reemerging in the United States and threatening our communities,” said Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Peter Marks, noting that the vaccine has been in use in the US for half a century.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles to be eradicated in the US in 2000 as a result of a “highly effective vaccination program … as well as better measles control in the Americas region,” the disease has made a comeback in the last decade.
Measles is still prevalent in countries with limited access to the MMR vaccine, with an estimated 20 million cases per year worldwide, and most outbreaks of the disease in the US can be traced back to international travel. While measles is no longer endemic in the US, the highly contagious disease can spread quickly when introduced in communities with vaccination rates below the 95% threshold for maintaining herd immunity.
So far there have been 626 confirmed measles cases in the US in the first four months of 2019, just shy of the previous full-year record of 667 cases in 2014. According to the CDC, the US is on track
to break that record in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, New York City declared
measles to be a public health emergency and issued an emergency order requiring residents six months or older in certain ZIP codes to get the MMR vaccine within 48 hours or face fines. Around half of the confirmed measles cases in the US this year have occurred in or near New York City, with many of the cases affecting members of the Orthodox Jewish community
Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that measles cases have increased by 300%
in 2019 compared to the same period last year.
“We cannot state strongly enough – the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” Marks said.
Marks also said that while the MMR vaccine is known to have potential side effects, that adverse reactions are typically mild and temporary compared to the symptoms and potential outcomes of the diseases it prevents.