There are facts regarding the history of measles that almost never reach the light of day. Here are 14 things you may not have been told by public health officials, your doctor, or the media.
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“For over 100 years, there has been a strong association with vitamin A deficiency and adverse measles outcomes, especially in young children. Has the time come for the medical community to recognize that any child presenting with measles complications should be given vitamin A and evaluated for overall nutritional status? If not, what has history taught us?” – Adrianne Bendich, 1992
Measles – it’s a highly infectious disease we don’t think much about today. After all, a vaccine was developed 50 years ago that “defeated” the problem.  But wait … despite a measles vaccinebeing around for half a century, measles is still considered a major threat by health authorities.
At its fifty year anniversary there were universal positive accolades in the media. Anyone who questions the value of measles vaccines or any vaccine is quickly pilloried because the science of the measles vaccine is supposedly beyond reproach. Proponents say that only conspiratorialists and lunatics would question it.
But, there are facts regarding the history of measles that almost never reach the light of day. Here are 14 things you may not have been told by public health officials, your doctor, or the media.
1. Measles death rate had declined by almost 100% before the use of a measles vaccine
During the 1800s, measles were a notable cause of death. Epidemics occurred every few years causing a large influx of children into local hospital wards. In Glasgow, England From 1807-1812 measles accounted for 11% of all deaths. In the years from 1867-1872, 49% of children in a Paris orphanage who developed measles died.  Starting in the mid to late-1800s deaths from all infectious diseases, including measles, began to decline. By the 1930s in England and the United States, the chance of dying from measles had dropped to 1-2 percent.
A killed measles virus (KMV) vaccine came into use in the United States in 1963. What you may not have heard is that by 1963, the death rate from measles in the United States had already dropped by approximately 98%. 
Some New England states had no deaths at all from measles. During this year, the whole of New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) had only 5 deaths attributed to measles. Deaths from asthma were 56 times greater, accidents were 935 times greater, motor vehicle accidents were 323 times greater, other accidents were 612 times greater, and heart disease was 9,560 times greater. 
In England the measles vaccine was introduced in 1968. By this point measles deaths were extremely rare. The actual death rate from measles in England had fallen by an almost full 100%. 
2. The 1963 measles vaccine caused a severe disease called atypical measles
Historically, measles would produce a high fever, cough, and measles rash.
“… almost suddenly, coryza [head cold], with red and watery eyes, and photophobia present themselves, closely followed by troublesome cough and corresponding feverishness reaching 103º and 104º F. (39.4º and 40º C.) ”
The early vaccine that was experimented with was a weakened, live measles vaccine. This vaccine resulted in a much higher fever in about half the children that received it. Meaning, they had a 106 degree fever as opposed to the 103 degree fever they might have had with natural measles.
“However the vaccine produced a modified measles rash in 48 per cent of the children who received it and fever as high as 106 degrees in 83 per cent of them. ”
To temper this problem, measles-specific antibody was given in the form of immune serum globulin alongside the live vaccines. This practice blunted the obvious reactions (fever and rash) to the live virus in the vaccine, but had serious potential consequences.
“The data show a highly significant correlation between lack of measles exanthema [rash] and auto-immune diseases, seborrhoeic skin diseases, degenerative diseases of the bones and certain tumors … We think that the rash is caused by a cell mitigated immune reaction, which destroys the cells infected with the measles virus. If this is correct, the missing exanthema may indicate that intracellular virus components have escaped neutralization during the acute infection. This may later lead to the aforementioned diseases … The presence of specific antibodies at the time of infection interferes with the normal immune response against the measles virus, in particular with the development of the specific cell mitigated immunity (and/or cytotoxic reactions). The intracellular measles virus can then survive the acute infection and cause diseases manifesting in the adult age. ”
In other words, suppressing the measles rash and fever, which may have seemed like a good idea at the time, interfered with the normal immune response. Interfering with the body’s immune response, in attempt to compensate for a worse vaccine reaction, may have resulted in future problems in the adults that received this treatment. The use of immune serum globulin was recommended to be discontinued in 1968, but continued long after that.  This practice continues to this day.
“…four contacts with no history of MMR vaccine or with contraindications to MMR vaccination, received immunoglobulin. ”
A study from 1967 revealed that this killed measles virus vaccine could cause pneumonia and abdominal pain as well as encephalopathy (inflammation of the brain). These severe effects were “unanticipated.”
“Pneumonia is a consistent and prominent finding. Fever is severe and persistent and the degree of headache, when present, suggests a central nervous system involvement. Indeed one patient in our series who was examined by EEG, evidence of disturbed electrical activity of the brain was found, suggestive of encephalopathy … These untoward results of inactivated measles virus immunization was unanticipated. ”
Atypical measles was severe and occurred after encountering natural measles or being vaccinated with a live measles vaccine, because of being originally vaccinated with the KMV vaccine.
“Atypical measles was characterized by a higher and more prolonged fever, unusual skin lesions and severe pneumonitis compared to measles in previously unvaccinated persons. The rash was often accompanied by evidence of hemorrhage or vesiculation. The pneumonitis included distinct nodular parenchymal lesions and hilar adenopathy. Abdominal pain, hepatic dysfunction, headache, eosinophilia, pleural effusions and edema were also described. ”
Nearly 2 million doses of KMV vaccine were distributed in 1963-1967. The killed vaccine was usually given in a series of 2 to 4 doses at monthly intervals. Atypical measles was reported even 16 years after receiving KMV vaccinations. Atypical measles due to use of the KMV vaccine could prove deadly.
“A 13-year-old girl died on February 18, 1978, after being hospitalized at University Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a diagnosis of measles encephalitis and pneumonia. The patient had been vaccinated in 1966 or 1967 with 3 injections of killed measles vaccine. One week before admission, and 10 days after a known measles exposure, she developed fever, headache, chills, cough, rhinorrhea, and severe vomiting. A fine rash appeared on her arms and spread to her trunk and face. She was seen by her physician, who diagnosed atypical measles. A week later, on January 23, her fever increased, and she had her first seizure … Upon arrival, she was treated with intravenous penicillin and hydrocortisone. Despite anticonvulsant therapy, she continued to have focal and then generalized seizures … Over the next several days, the rash began to fade, but the patient remained comatose. She died on the 21st hospital day. ”
3. Measles was supposed to be eradicated in 1967
With the invention of the killed vaccine and then a live vaccine, a campaign was started in the autumn of 1966 to eliminate measles from the United States. With vaccination of all the susceptible 8 to 10 million children, measles was projected to be eliminated from the United States by 1967.
“Highly effective, safe vaccines are available for eliminating measles in the United States. Collaborative efforts of professional and voluntary medical and public health organizations are directed toward eradicating the disease in 1967. ”
“Effective use of these vaccines during the coming winter and spring should insure the eradication of measles from the United States in 1967. ”
15 years later measles rates had declined, but the expected quick eradication did not occur. The response at that point, was to vaccinate all children and not just the “susceptible” children. The new plan would be to eliminate measles from the United States by 1982.
“On October 4, 1978, the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., announced that the United States would seek to eliminate indigenous measles from the nation by October 1, 1982. This goal is a possibility because of the decline in incidence of measles in the United States and the major progress that the Nationwide Childhood Immunization Initiative has made in attaining immunization levels of at least 90% in those under 15 years of age by October 1, 1979. ”
Yet, it wasn’t until 1980 that a stable live vaccine became available. Those vaccinated before 1980 might not be as immune as had originally been believed because it was later determined these older vaccines were not necessarily effective.
“Dr. Ralph D. Feigin, physician in chief of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and an expert in infectious diseases, said people born before 1956 are assumed to be immune to measles, because nearly every child was exposed to the disease. The vaccine was first developed in 1963, but it was made from a killed virus and was not widely effective. In 1967 a live vaccine was introduced, but it was an unstable solution and lost its effectiveness if it was not properly refrigerated. It was not until 1980 that a stable live vaccine became available. As a result, people vaccinated before 1980 may not be immune. That is one reason measles is breaking out on college campuses. ”
In the year 2000, cases had declined, and measles was finally declared eliminated from the United States – 33 years after the original elimination target date. However, in 2012 the CDC pulled back from that declaration, stating that measles reappeared and was spreading. Of the total number of cases, 200 were attributed to foreign travel, but the source for 22 cases was never determined. 
4. A single shot was said to provide lifelong immunity
Edward Jenner is generally recognized as the inventor of the first vaccine in 1798, although the practice of using diseased human and/or human pus in an attempt to protect against diseases is known to have been used even in ancient times. Jenner’s vaccine was supposed to guard against smallpox. He erroneously claimed that it would protect someone for life. This statement would later prove to be completely false and the claims for the vaccine were modified to state that the vaccine provided temporary protection that would make the disease “milder.”
Similar to this statement, the inventors of the early measles vaccines made claims that the vaccine would provide lifelong immunity to measles with a single shot.
“Measles virus vaccine is recommended for all persons who have neither had measles nor been vaccinated previously. It is believed that one dose of live, attenuated vaccine will give life-long protection. ”
“The United State Public Health Service licensed a new, refined, live-measles vaccine. Although several live vaccines have been licensed since 1963—all of them one-shot treatments that give life immunity without serious side-effects—the new one is considered by epidemiologists as “the best so far in minimizing the side-effects.” 
Before the era of vaccination, natural measles would mostly occur in younger children. But with the advent of vaccination there was an upward shift in age of infection to adolescents.
“The number of measles cases reported in 1976 and 1977 increased to the highest levels since 1971. Much of the increase resulted from localized measles outbreaks, many of which occurred in school populations, particularly among the 10 to 19 year-olds, in communities believed to have high immunity levels … With the recent shift in age distribution of reported measles cases to older age groups, effective epidemic control may require vaccination of susceptible high school and college-age persons as well as preschool and younger school-age children … ”
Because of this shift, the vaccine needed to be administered to this older population that historically would have gotten measles much earlier and had lifelong immunity. A significant percentage of this group developed fevers just as high as or higher than if they had had natural measles.
“Because of the upward shift in age distribution of reported cases, the immune status of all adolescents should be evaluated. Complete measles control will require protection of all susceptibles; therefore, increased emphasis must be placed on vaccinating susceptible adolescents and young adults … about 5%-15% of vaccinees may develop fever >103 F (>39.4 C) beginning about the sixth day after vaccination and lasting up to 5 days…”
The idea of a single shot has been replaced in the current schedule recommended by the CDC to vaccinate at 12-15 months and 4-6 years , and now even adults are often told to get another vaccine. This second shot recommendation was issued after the repeated failure to eliminate measles with the single shot.
“At least one state, New York, has already taken steps to require two doses. All students entering kindergarten in September 1990 will be required to show evidence of having had two measles shots, said Frances Tarlton, a spokeswoman for the New York State Health Department. The pediatric academy’s new policy recommends that the first dose be given along with immunizations against mumps and rubella at 15 months. The second would be given with mumps and rubella immunizations at entrance to middle school or junior high school. ”
The idea of lifelong immunity came from the observation that those exposed to natural measles were immune for a very long period of time or for life.
“One of the remarkable observations about measles is that immunity induced by natural infection appears to remain strong for life: thus, Panum observed that individuals exposed to measles in 1781 in the Faroe Islands were still immune when the virus was next introduced, 65 years later in 1846. ”
However, unlike natural measles infection, the measles vaccine does not appear to provide such long lasting protection. Protection afforded by vaccination appears to wane in number of years. Length of protection is estimated in this study to be approximately 25 years.
“Because measles-specific antibody titer after vaccination is lower than after natural infection, there is concern that vaccinated persons may gradually lose protection from measles. Secondary vaccine failure (loss of immunity over time), in contrast to primary vaccine failure (no protection immediately after vaccination), is a concern because of the potential insidious challenge to measles elimination. For instance, if vaccine-induced immunity wane to nonprotective levels in a high proportion of vaccinated adults, the level of population protection might decline to allow recurrence of endemic disease. By means of statistical modeling, Mossong et al. predicted waning of vaccine-induced immunity 25 years after immunization. ”
Like the smallpox vaccine and the measles vaccine, most vaccines were originally claimed to provide lifelong protection. However, actual experience showed that this was never the case as it often is with natural infection.
5. Large epidemics still occur in highly vaccinated populations
In the pre-vaccine era, measles freely circulated providing for natural boosting in the population. After natural measles infection during childhood, reoccurrence of measles was rare. The solid, lifelong protection afforded by natural infection has been replaced with a vaccine-induced immunity that wanes with time. Waning immunity among the vaccinated, combined with lower natural disease boosting will create substantial numbers of measles-susceptible people in highly vaccinated populations
… waning of vaccine-induced immunity can have a significant impact, primarily because the available data makes higher values plausible for this rate of waning. The rate is still quite small, but by acting on so many individuals in a highly vaccinated community it can render a significant number susceptible to infection. 
This combination of effects can result in large-scale measles epidemics, despite high vaccination rates.
When immunity wanes, vaccination has a far more limited impact on the average number of cases. While this observation has clear public-health implications, the dynamic consequences of the interaction between vaccination, waning immunity and boosting are far more striking. For high levels of vaccination (greater than 80%) and moderate levels of waning immunity (greater than 30 years), large-scale epidemic cycles can be induced. 
Dr. James Cherry, commented that, in the post-vaccine era, measles had become a “time bomb.”  Is this why the CDC and health officials go into a state of panic when measles cases erupt in well vaccinated populations? Do officials know that at some point waning immunity will start an epidemic even in a very highly vaccinated population? Think of the impact of this dynamic as the truly immune seniors die out of the population, and are replaced by vaccine “immune” people.
6. Babies have become more susceptible to measles
Mothers transmit all sorts of protective immune globulins to their babies naturally via the placenta and these last for several months. She also passes general and specific immunity through her milk. A mother who has had natural measles yields protection to the baby against measles for about 12 to 15 months while breastfeeding. Mothers who were vaccinated transmit a shorter duration of protection to their babies. In the era of vaccination, babies are now susceptible to measles at a much earlier age.
“Waning immunity may become an increasing problem as vaccine coverage increases: because more mothers will have been vaccinated and since they have not been exposed or had natural measles, they will transmit lower levels of maternal antibody. Thus their babies become susceptible to measles by 3 to 5 months of age. ”
Because of this decrease in maternal antibodies there are calls to vaccinate infants at younger ages.
“Moreover, as children of vaccinated mothers lose their maternal antibodies earlier than children of naturally infected mothers, we may need to give the first MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) dose at a younger age if measles, mumps or rubella start occurring in young infants. ”
This is already a well-established practice in very young infants in overcrowded, poor countries.
7. Immunity is not always immunity: Shifting sands.
Because of the KMV vaccine, lack of understanding of maternal antibodies, and use of serum globulin, a large number of people were told that they needed to be revaccinated in 1977.
“The following persons cannot be considered adequately protected and should be revaccinated: (1) children previously vaccinated with live measles vaccine before they were 12 months of age (2) children who received live, further attenuated vaccine (SchwarzR or MoratenR strains), along with immune serum globulin (ISG), regardless of age at time of vaccination (3) persons previously vaccinated with killed measles vaccine (4) persons previously vaccinated with live measles vaccine within 3 months after receiving killed measles vaccine … ”
By 1989, because of numerous issues – including the determination that the older vaccines were not widely effective – everyone under the age of 32 (anyone born after 1957) was urged to be revaccinated.
“All children in the United States should be given a second vaccination against measles, as should adults under the age of 32, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. A similar recommendation is expected from the Centers for Disease Control later this year, said Dr. Walter O. Orenstein, who heads the division of immunization at the Federal agency in Atlanta. The new recommendations call for a gradual campaign, not an overnight effort, to provide a second measles vaccination to those under 32. ”
8. Immunity without antibodies
Scientists were surprised when they learned that individuals with a deficit in antibody production, called agammaglobulinemia, recovered from measles just as well as normal antibody producers. This “disconcerting” discovery was made in the 1960s when measles vaccinations were just getting under way.
“One of the most disconcerting discoveries in clinical medicine was the finding that children with congenital agamma-globulinaemia, who could make no antibody and had only insignificant traces of immunoglobulin in circulation, contracted measles in normal fashion, showed the usual sequence of symptoms and signs, and were subsequently immune. No measles antibody was detectable in their serum [the water part of blood minus clotting factors and cells]. ”
Therefore the antibody part of immunity is not at all necessary for the natural recovery from measles, nor the immunity upon re-exposure.
“… children with antibody deficiency syndromes have quite unremarkable attacks of measles with the characteristic rash and normal recovery. Furthermore, they are not unduly prone to reinfection. It therefore seems that serum antibody, at any rate in any quantity, is not required for the production of the measles rash; nor for the normal recovery from the disease; nor to prevent reinfection. ”
Nonetheless, vaccine scientists and public health officials have measured “immunity” solely focusing on antibodies. Antibody production does occur in natural infection but it is the last thing that happens and not a necessary part of recovery or long-term immunity. It is known that the immune system responds with more than just antibodies, yet because markers of cell-mediated immunity are elusive, antibodies have become the measure of whether or not a person is immune.
When a person gets an infectious disease for the first time, the body’s immune system uses its innate powers, which mostly involve cellular immunity. In the process, it prepares for the future. The next time that same infectious agent comes around; the body will use its memory of the first experience so that it can react faster. This is done with or without antibodies.
9. Vitamins A and C are key to normal measles recovery.
With a singular focus on vaccination and antibody response all other approaches dealing with measles were for the most part ignored. However, since the early 1900s it was known that certain vitamins had a significant impact on measles outcomes.
Vitamin A stops the measles virus from rapidly multiplying inside cells by up-regulating the innate immune system in uninfected cells which helps to prevent the virus from infecting new cells. It is well known today that a low vitamin A level correlates with increased morbidity and mortality. Vitamin A is a well-proven intervention for reduction of mortality, concomitant infections, and hospital stay.
When the body fights any infection, but especially measles, vitamin A stores become depleted by various mechanisms. Measles infections and high-titer measles vaccines both impair cell-mediated immunity, in part because of vitamin A depletion.