Although the reports have attracted little notice in this country, health officials overseas are battling an outbreak of one of the most contagious diseases on earth. But before you cancel your travel plans to the jungles of Africa or South America, take note: this hot zone is actually in Holland, and the disease, measles. Over the past year Dutch doctors have identified at least 2,300 cases of measles. According to the latest figures, three children have died from the disease, and 53 were hospitalized with complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis. Most of the cases occurred in children between the ages of six and 10-the vast majority of whom had not received the readily available vaccine against measles.
Antivaccine sentiments are popping up everywhere. Religious reasons sometimes play a role, as in the Netherlands measles deaths. Increasingly, though, it is not religious conviction that prevents children from receiving vaccines but rather parents' fears that the shots might either cause the diseases they are intended to prevent or even contribute to other ailments, ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis. An array of advocacy groups with authoritative-sounding names, such as the Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center, encourage parents to reconsider giving their children vaccines. In response, officials at health organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are scrambling to reassure parents that vaccines are not only safe but are crucial for their children's health and for public safety.
This article was originally published with the title Granting Immunity.