The Measles Tipping Point: Too Many Unvaccinated Children

Paul A. Offit, MD


February 23, 2015

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

My name is Paul Offit. I am talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Today I would like to talk about measles.

Last year in the United States there were approximately 650 cases of measles. This year, as of February 6, 2015, there have been 121 cases of measles in 17 states. At that rate, we are going to have twice the number of cases of measles as we had last year, and last year was the biggest measles epidemic we have had in 20 years.

Why is this happening? It is happening because parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. That is not new. Parents have made that choice. What is new is that we have reached the tipping point.

The conversation has largely changed. Now, what we hear the media say, and what we hear parents say, is that they are angry. Angry that parents have made a choice not only to not vaccinate their children and put their own children at risk, but also to put other children with whom they come in contact at risk.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We know that the state of Washington has recently introduced a bill to eliminate philosophical exemptions. The state of California has done the same thing. The conversation now is about rights—that balance between the rights of the individual vs the good of society. Is it your right to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection?

Of interest, recently Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said that he thinks it should be a parent's personal choice. It is odd that he lives in a state that also has a law requiring people to put children in car seats. The reason that law is there is that if a child is in an accident but in a car seat, that child is much less likely to suffer harm than if the child is not in a car seat. I don't see how vaccines are any different. I am not sure why the Governor makes a distinction between car seats and vaccines, because both provide protection should the child be challenged.

Thanks for your attention.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.