Last week, America hit a record. Confirmed cases of measles eclipsed 700 cases. The disease that was once considered eradicated is now back and it has public health officials concerned.
Dr. Todd Reinhart is the Dean of Sciences and Health Professions at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and he has more than two decades of experience in infectious disease research. He’s a strong proponent of vaccinations and weighed in with his thoughts and perspective.
“I’m not shocked,” says Reinhart. “I know there’s been a strong anti-vaccination movement and there’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
He believes social media has been largely responsible for this movement to not vaccinate. The publication of the “Wakefield” paper, which suggested that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism — even though retracted — got a lot of attention. However, that research that vaccinations cause autism has been debunked and even most recently there’s a study out of Denmark that covered 5,000,000 person years and there was no association with immunization and developing autism.
Reinhart wants the public to look at the bigger picture and consequences.
“It’s important to protect that child but also the broader society. Vaccines have been the strongest public health success story over the last few centuries. Measles is one of the most highly contagious viruses that we know. The odds of your getting it, if you’re exposed to it and you haven’t been immunized, is 90 percent.
Part of the concern is for infants who aren’t immunized, the elderly because their immune systems are weaker, and those who are immunocompromised.”
But there is also the matter of rights to be considered and that is playing a big part in all of this.
“The problem is that individuals’ rights intersect with medicine, public health practice, and collective rights. If my infant, who couldn’t be immunized, contracts it through a carrier who could have been immunized, who has the higher ground because of rights? The problem is that even with clear data and clear information, people have been allowed the right, for the most part, to make the decisions they want,” Reinhart reiterates.
If you are looking for answers and facts when it comes to vaccinations – it’s best to visit credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local public health websites.
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Dr. Todd Reinhart is Dean of Sciences and Health Professions, Professor, Biology and Health Professions at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He has a degree in cancer biology from Harvard University’s School of Public Health and is an expert in the areas of infectious diseases. Simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.
Todd Reinhart, Sc.D.
Dean, School of Sciences and Health Professions, Professor, Biology and Health Professions
Expertise: Infectious diseases and microbiology