By Dr. Alan Palmer, CHD Contributing Writer
Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. and other Western nations made progress tackling problems related to nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, water, garbage and pests. With these improvements, the death rates from childhood infectious diseases plummeted—long before the advent of vaccines for those illnesses. U.S. vital statistics affirm that the measles mortality (death) rate had dropped 99.4% before introduction of the first measles vaccine in 1963.
Fuzzy measles math
Prior to the measles vaccine’s U.S. introduction, the estimated number of measles cases annually was between 4 and 6.5 million (depending on the source). The government-reported mortality rate—pre-vaccine—was approximately 1 in 10,000 cases. So why do today’s media often report it as 1 in 1,000 cases? This appears to be an attempt to exaggerate the facts and promote fear to drive the vaccine mandate agenda. Ninety percent or more of all measles cases were so mild that they were never reported because parents never took their children to the doctor. Only 10% of overall cases were severe enough to warrant seeking medical care, but even in that subgroup, not all cases were reported. It was only among the 10% that sought medical care and were reported that the fatality rate was about 1 in 1,000. Modern news outlets get away with inaccurately reporting the death rate as 1 in 1,000 by leaving out the crucial word “reported” and referring only to “cases.”
But even a death rate of 1 in 10,000 cases does not accurately reflect the situation for the majority of the population, for whom measles mortality was far less. Socioeconomic factors are very important in this discussion but often overlooked. In the middle of the last century, U.S. children living in poverty had poorer nutrition, less sanitary living conditions and less access to medical care. As one might expect, this resulted in less viable and resilient immune systems that made them more vulnerable to measles complications and death.
Two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies support the observation that poorer children suffered more serious complications and a higher measles mortality rate. One study, titled “Measles mortality: a retrospective look at the vaccine era” (authored for the CDC’s Bureau of Epidemiology and published in 1975 in the American Journal of Epidemiology), reviewed statistics from 1958-1963. A 1980 study from the CDC’s Immunization Division, titled “Measles mortality in the United States 1971-1975” and published in the American Journal of Public Health, reviewed records from 1971-1975. Both studies showed that children who lived at or below the poverty level, and especially in rural settings, were significantly more likely to die from measles than those in the higher income brackets. In fact, the second study found a ten times (1,000%) higher death rate for those below the poverty level than for the more affluent population.
As I thought about those numbers and the 1000% greater incidence of death in poverty-stricken children, I became curious as to how disproportionate those numbers might be when considering the population as a whole. Remember, the overall mortality rate for the entire country was reported as approximately 1 death for every 10,000 cases of measles. In the pre-measles-vaccine era from 1959-1962, the total U.S. population was from 178 million (1959) to 189 million (1963), and the percentage of families living at or below the poverty level was about 8% (approximately 14 million). If that 8% had a 1,000% higher mortality rate than the more affluent population, it would stand to reason that the mortality rate for that affluent segment must be far less than 1 in 10,000 cases. Here are the CDC measles mortality numbers for 1971-1975 reported in the American Journal of Public Health:
- Families with incomes of less than or equal to $5,000/year: 1 death in 237,467 (population)
- Families with incomes between $5,000 and $10,000/year: 1 death in 1,009,437 (population)
- Families with incomes over $10,000/year: 1 death in 2,190,837 (population)
In other words, for higher-income households, there was less than a one in two million measles fatality rate.
Even lower mortality today
In modern-day America, there are many variables that would contribute to a dramatically lower measles mortality rate. What follow are but a handful:
- The percentage of people living in poverty in the United States has decreased about 50% since the early 1960s (dropping from 8% to 4%). This alone would translate into a much lower measles mortality rate today.
- Individuals living in poverty today have better access to sanitary water, nutrient-enriched foods, vitamins and medical care than 60 years ago.
- Today, rural America has better access to medical care and doctors than in the middle of the last century.
- Knowledge of personal hygiene and its importance has become part of the fabric of society. This helps to reduce the spread of disease and improves outcomes.
- Since 1960, much has been learned about the power of vitamin A in reducing complications and deaths from measles. The World Health Organization (WHO) has touted the success of its vitamin A campaign in developing countries for reducing measles-related complications and deaths.
- Many other herbal and natural antiviral compounds have been discovered in the last 60 years.
- Immunoglobulin therapy is available today for individuals who are vulnerable to measles complications […]
© Oct 24, 2019 Children’s Health Defense, Inc. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Children’s Health Defense, Inc. Want to learn more from Children’s Health Defense? Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. Your donation will help to support us in our efforts.