All In   |  August 27, 2013

Measles outbreak linked to anti-vaccination mega-church

A measles outbreak in North Texas has infected, at last count, 25 people. Chris Hayes talks with Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University about the outbreak and the larger culture of information, and misinformation, around vaccinations.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there's a measles outbreak in north texas that has infected at last count 25 people. the epicenter of that outbreak seems to be a megachurch called eagle mountain international church.

>> it was a diagnosis so uncommon in the united states dr. karen smith had to consult a textbook.

>> we were aware of it for two weeks and doing everything we could behind the scenes , unofficially, to contain it.

>> before the release of the measles vaccine in 1963 , hundreds of thousands of people here in the u.s. contracted the virus which can cause a rash all over and pneumonia and in some cases even death. due in large part to high vaccination rates, measles, until recently, had been eliminated here in thus country more or less, meaning there was no longer any year-round epidemic transmission of the virus. over the last ten years or so, amongst certain religious groups and secular skeptics based on disproven and dubious science, many parents have either stopped or delays vaccinating their kids. according to " national geographic " parents who delayed or refused vaccinations rose from 22% in 2003 to nearly 40% in 2008 . it not only imperils the lives of those kids but imperils anyone such as newborns who are not fully vaccinated. in the case of texas, someone not fully vaccinated against measles traveled overseas then brought the virus back with him. the reason for the outbreak is that eagle mountain international church is a community that advocates faith healing over vaccinations. the church is part of the ministries of televangelist kenneth copeland and led by his his daughter. although she has since encouraged her congregation to get vaccinations, the church says, quote, they should first seek the wisdom of god, his word, his would include vaccinations, immunizations."

>> all of these shots and owl this stuff that they wanted to put in his body.

>> just a newborn.

>> wow. i got to looking into that, and it was --

>> some of it is criminal.

>> you're not putting hepatitis "b" in an infant. that's crazy. that is a shot for sexually transmitted disease. what? in a baby?

>> as parents, we need to be a whole lot more serious about this in being aware of what is good and what isn't. and you don't take the word of the guy that's trying to give shot about what's good and what isn't.

>> it's pretty clear. vaccines are one of the greatest success stories of modern medicine . one that remarkably finds itself under threat in the 21st century from denialists across the political spectrum . joining me, arthur capland, professor of bioethics and director of division of medical ethics at new york university an gone medic langone medical center . i suppose we should start about the current state of science on this matter. get us started there. is there any reason, reasonable reason, to not get your kid vaccinated?

>> there's a tiny set of reasons, chris. maybe your child has an egg allergy , your child may have an immune disease and in some instances your child may be getting treatment for a disease that doesn't allow them to build an immune response . say, cancer therapy, or maybe they've had a transplant. outside of that, the argument for vaccination is overwhelmingly positive.

>> so we've seen now in this case a faith community which has folks that are not getting vaccinated, and i wanted to talk to you because we have an interesting intersection here between people that have some kind of religious commitment, in the case of christian scientists , for example, there's actually a very intense spiritual commitment to not having doctors minister to them. in this case, it doesn't seem quite as strong. how should we as a society react to a story like this when we see people whose faith commitments are possibly endangering infants and newborns all over the place?

>> well, you know, chris, there's no major religion that opposes vaccination. the bible is silent on the subject. in fact, vaccination or its early forerunner, inoculation, didn't really start until the end of the 19th century . so there isn't much said in any of the holy scriptures , koran, any place also, that's anti-vaccination. that's sort of a modern development in and of itself. but when you see outbreaks like this, i think what we have to realize is is it's very important to protect your child. they can't protect themselves. the vaccination is also about protecting your neighbor. when you did that report about the fellow who went overseas, got exposed to measles, he hadn't been vaccinated, he came back and gave it to a bunch more people who hadn't been vaccinated. vaccination is about the community. it's about taking care of one another. it's about a religious outlook that the community counts and we're going to protect the weak and the vulnerable. i hear people not vaccinating, i think of it as selfish.

>> we also -- we also saw some -- another case of measles in brooklyn's orthodox jewish community, just so we're sort of equal opportunity here. new york city health authority saw a sudden rise in measles cases in several densely populated orthodox jewish communities. department traced the outbreak from a person, concluded brought the virus from a trip to london. the outbreak started in the small group of families with members who refused vaccines. i want you to just make this point, again, because i think it's an important one, right? i think it's easy for people to make a calculation, well, what happens if my one kid doesn't get vaccinated? everyone else is vaccinated. but there's a concept of herd up immuni immunity, you need people to snuff out these very insidious sicknesses.

>> there's two ways that vaccine vaccines protect us. one is they give each one of us some protection. although novak se vaccine is 100%. if i get vaccinated and you get vaccinated, it's hard for the virus to get a foothold. that's herd immunity . if we can get vaccination rates above 94%, 95%, 98% for the flu, the measles, mumps or whooping cough, we can get much better protection. again, i come back to this point. i think people are thinking, well, i don't have to get vaccinated, everybody else is. well, everybody else may not. where we're seeing the outbreaks is when we get pockets of people deciding not to do it. overall, the public does support vaccination, but we see small pockets around the country where they're not vaccinating and the diseases are erupting.

>> the pojckets may be isolated. we've seen something in the last 15 years in which pop culture in america has been infected by the disease of denialism when .f we have someone who literally wrote the book on this topic, right after this break. the