How the CDC and Media Lie about the Measles Death Rate

The claim that measles kills 1 in 1,000 is false. Before the vaccine, it was 1 in 10,000. And vaccination has actually increased the case fatality rate.

When reporting on measles outbreaks in the US, the mainstream media routinely tell the public that the death rate from viral infection is 1 in 1,000. The source for this regularly repeated claim is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which does indeed state on its website that “For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.” But that is a blatant and deliberate lie.

Although the media don’t tell you this, most of the decline in measles mortality seen during the 20th century occurred before the vaccine was introduced in 1963 and was due to an increasing standard of living, including better nutrition. By the time the vaccine came into use, measles deaths had become relatively rare, averaging about 500 per year.

Although the mortality rate had declined dramatically prior to the vaccine, the incidence of measles remained fairly steady. Almost everyone had been infected by the time they reached adulthood, resulting in long-lasting immunity. Furthermore, because the virus was still circulating, re-exposures provided a natural boosting, such that having measles during childhood typically conferred a robust immunity that was lifelong in duration.

Every year, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people were infected with measles. However, most cases were benign and not reported. The number of reported cases annually was about 500,000.

That’s where the “1 in 1,000” figure comes from. It’s the number of deaths per reported cases. The CDC, of course, knows full well that most cases were not reported and that the actual fatality rate was 0.1 in 1,000. As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) observed in a 1994 report, it was actually “1 per 10,000 cases”.

Hence, when the media lazily repeat the CDC’s lie, they are overstating the measles death rate by an order of magnitude.

The purpose of this deception, of course, is to frighten parents into vaccinating their children. But another fact that neither public health officials nor the media will tell you is that mass vaccination has actually shifted the risk burden in the event of exposure onto those who are at greatest risk for potentially deadly complications.

This is due to what’s described in the medical literature as “vaccine failure”, which is yet another fact to the media refuse to inform the public about.

In a certain percentage of children, the vaccine will just fail to work. It won’t stimulate the production of a protective level of antibodies. This is known as “primary vaccine failure”.

Unlike the immunity acquired through exposure during the pre-vaccine era, the vaccine-conferred immunity also wanes over time. This is called “secondary vaccine failure”.

While measles is typically a benign illness in children (in developed countries like the US), adults and infants are more likely to experience complications that might result in permanent harm or even death. Due to waning immunity and the loss of natural boosting from reexposure, a greater proportion of measles cases today occur in these vulnerable age groups.

The reason infants are at higher risk today in the event of exposure is because women today are not as well able to confer maternal passive immunity to their infants as mothers of the pre-vaccine era. The lost opportunities to gain the superior immunity conferred by infection and natural boosting through reexposures means that women today don’t pass on as many protective antibodies prenatally through the placenta or postnatally through breastmilk, leaving babies more vulnerable.

By 1990, mass vaccination had caused the death rate to rise to 3.2 per 1,000 reported cases.

According to a public database on the CDC’s website, for the years 1999 through 2017, there were 12 measles deaths reported: 2 cases in infants under one year old, 2 in children aged one to four, and the rest—two-thirds of the total—were in adults aged twenty-five and up.

During the same period of time, there were 2,393 reported measles cases, an average of 126 per year (with great variation annually and a peak of 667 in 2014).

That’s a fatality rate of 5 per 1,000 reported cases, reflecting the shift in risk burden caused by mass vaccination onto the members of society for whom measles is more dangerous.

Another claim routinely propagated by the media is that the population needs to maintain a vaccination rate of 95 percent in order to provide “herd immunity” by preventing outbreaks. But this theory is false. It ignores the reality of vaccine failure, due to which mass vaccination cannot stop outbreaks from happening. As Gregory Poland and Robert Jacobson acknowledged in a 1994 paper published in Archives of Internal Medicine, “outbreaks can continue to occur unless the vaccine is virtually 100% effective and virtually 100% of the population is immunized.”

Because some people cannot be vaccinated, because the vaccine fails to confer immunity in an estimated 2 percent to 10 percent of children, and because the vaccine-conferred immunity wanes over time, the vaccine is incapable of conferring the theorized “herd immunity”. Outbreaks can occur (and have occurred) even in populations where the vaccination rate exceeds 95 percent.

And in the event of exposure during an outbreak, due to mass vaccination, adults and infants are at higher risk.

For fuller details and full documentation (with links to primary sources), read my article for Children’s Health Defense, “CDC Lies About, and Media Repeats, Risk of Dying from Measles”.

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