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Here's the story of why vaccines are important

Here's the story of why vaccines are important

Feb. 26, 2024

By Mary Wade Burnside

In the ongoing dialogue surrounding vaccines, an episode from an old sitcom has become a surprising point of reference.
Perhaps you remember that time on “The Brady Bunch” when the six kids in the newly-formed family all come down with the measles.
Six improbably energetic, virally ill kids who were glad to have an excuse to stay home from school.
“If you have to get sick, you sure can’t beat the measles!” Marcia proclaims. (Myself, I always preferred a light cold to buy me some couch time and the opportunity to watch “The Price is Right.”)
Of course, this was a long time ago, before the measles vaccine was in wide use and childhood diseases were regarded as a fact of life.
Here’s the story about how 55 years later, some legislators, both nationally and in West Virginia, have used this fictional show to supplement the argument that measles and other vaccine-preventable illnesses are not a big deal.
Which leads to several obvious rebuttals, the first of which is that vaccine law should not be based on a TV show that first aired in 1969.
After all, it wasn’t until 1971 that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was widely available, leading to a dramatic plunge in cases by the 1980s and a near eradication of the virus in the United States by 2000.
Secondly, it ignores the serious potential complications of measles. Common ones include ear infections and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while serious complications can range from hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis and death. Pregnant women who have measles also can give birth prematurely, or have a low birth-weight baby.
Symptoms alone include cough, high fever, water eyes, runny nose and an itchy rash. It causes kids to miss school and sometimes, a parent to miss work in order to take care of the child.
A piece of legislation to eliminate vaccine requirements for public virtual schools, House Bill 5105, has recently been expanded by a committee to include private and parochial schools.
This would begin to chip away at the vaccine laws that have put West Virginia on the top of at least one positive health category. It’s one of only a handful of states, in addition to California, Maine, Mississippi and New York, that does not allow religious vaccine exemptions for those entering school. And it’s the only one that has never allowed them.
In 2019, after a pretty quiet couple of decades on the measles front, outbreaks were reported in 31 states and have continued every year since. One of the few states with no cases: West Virginia.
According to the state Bureau for Public Health, the last known measles in the Mountain State was in 2009.
We know vaccines work, and this isn’t the only confirmation that exists to help prove that.
Since 2000, measles vaccination has averted an estimated 57 million deaths worldwide, according to the CDC, which also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global vaccination activities.
And if you research what inventions and developments over time have had the greatest impact on saving human lives, vaccination is always on the list, along with available clean water and other medical interventions. One scientific magazine goes as far as to say that Edward Jenner, who pioneered the concept of vaccines and created the smallpox inoculation, has saved more lives in human history than anyone.
Monongalia County Health Department is always going to advocate in favor of vaccines. We also offer a variety of them, for babies, kids, teens and adults. Our website offers additional information.
You can call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment or check out our Events calendar to learn when our providers will be out in the community, as they will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 for Turning a New Leaf: Senior Day, aimed at those 55 years and older, at Mylan Park.
In the meantime, if you really want to attribute a vaccine quote to a Brady, try the actress who played Marcia. When contacted by a media outlet for a reaction, Maureen McCormick expressed concern and noted that she had her daughter vaccinated. “Having the measles was not a fun thing. I remember it spread through my family,” she was quoted as saying.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.





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