What you need to know about measles in 9 simple infographics

1. Measles still exists in many parts of the world.


Map of measles outbreak, 2008-2015; Source: Council on Foreign Relations

2. … And while we might not often see it anymore, with modern travel, measles is just a plane ride away.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3. When it arrives in our community, anyone who is not immunized could be at risk of getting sick.

Source: ECDC

Source: ECDC

4. It’s easy to spot (pun intended).

Source: GMA News

Source: GMA News

5. But it’s no joke.

Source: The Immunization Partnership

Source: The Immunization Partnership

6. The best way to prevent measles is by getting vaccinated.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

7. The vaccine is safe …

You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having a severe reaction to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Source: VacciNews.net

You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having a severe reaction to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Source: VacciNews.net

8. … and effective.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

9. Talk to your doctor about whether you and your family are up to date with your vaccinations. 

Ivy-Bean-Vs-measles ivy-and-bean-vs-measles2ivy-bean-vs-measles3

4 Great Animations Showing How Vaccines Work

Ever wonder how vaccines work? These videos explain:

1. Kid reporter: How vaccinations prevent outbreaks

Video source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Why we love it: This Kid Reporter gives a great overview of how getting vaccinated get help protect the entire community from disease.


2. Immunize For Good – How Vaccines Work

Video source: Immunize For Good

Why we love it: Using adorable animations and easy-to-understand language, this animated video explains how vaccines build up the immune system.


3. NOVA | Immunity and Vaccines Explained | PBS

Video source: NOVA

Why we love it: Animated white blood cells have never looked so cool.


4. How do vaccines work? – Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut

Video source: TED-Ed

Why we love it: In addition to outlining how vaccines prime the immune system, it also describes the different types of vaccines and how they are made.

Know of an animated video that belongs in this list? Let us know! Write a comment below.

Switching Sides: From Anti-Vaccine to Pro

by Nicolevaccine books

I was an “antivaxxer.” Today, that surprises many people as I’m an outspoken advocate for vaccination. But it’s true. Once upon a time, I was just as outspoken against vaccination, particularly mandatory vaccination. It rankled my inner Libertarian, this notion that “They” could tell us what to put in our bodies. Polluting our children’s precious bodily fluids with mercury and aluminum. How dare they.

When the Wakefield study (now thoroughly debunked, discredited and stinking up the compost pile) was released, I read it from beginning to end. That was the moment when I became not only anti mandatory vaccination, but anti-vaccination. When I spoke with people around me, also opposed to vaccines, they had much to tell me. They told me that vaccine immunity is inferior to natural immunity. They told me that sanitation, not vaccination, was responsible for the decline of vaccine preventable illness. They told me that the decline in the natural life cycle of polio simply coincided with the rise in vaccination. They told me that Big Pharma made huge profits off of vaccines. They told me that breastfeeding provides immunity against all illnesses, and that a healthy mother’s milk was better than any vaccine. They told me that most of the sick people in an outbreak of vaccine-preventable illness are vaccinated, so clearly vaccines didn’t even work. I listened to these people. They had magazine articles and books and websites, and I devoured them all.

My son had already been mostly vaccinated, as he was about 6 when all this happened. I was horrified that I’d let doctors put mercury and aluminum into his little body. I felt guilty and outraged at the medical establishment for leading me astray. I vowed never to get him another vaccine, because now, I knew better. I was lauded by my anti-vaccine friends for my regret, and my newfound awareness.

The year I began my prerequisites for nursing school, I took a class in Microbiology, which I devoured as eagerly as the anti-vaccination propaganda I’d consumed before. I discovered some unsettling information there…I discovered how immunity actually works. I discovered how vaccines actually work. And suddenly there were cracks in the firmament.

It took some time, and no small amount of courage, but I slowly began to do more research. I discovered that shingles is what happens when your immunity to chickenpox begins to wear off and the virus reactivates – so much for natural immunity being inherently superior or lifelong. I found out that even breastfed babies can get whooping cough – so much for breastfeeding replacing vaccines and herd immunity. I realized that people had modern sanitation – even indoor plumbing and soap – during the height of the polio and measles crises – so much for sanitation being a cure all. I learned that there is no natural decline of polio – only deaths caused by it. And yes, deaths from polio did indeed decline before the polio vaccine was introduced… but it was because they’d invented the iron lung. Polio cases didn’t decrease, only polio deaths, because of better medical treatment.

On and on it went. Everything crumbled around me in layers of logical fallacy and misrepresented statistics. “Big Pharma” makes less than 0.9% of their profits (1.82% of their revenue) from vaccines. Hardly worth it, and many pharmaceutical companies are getting out of the vaccine production business as a result.

The last one to fall, the hardest brick in the wall, was the fact that often most victims in an outbreak have been vaccinated. That one is, surprisingly, quite true. But it’s not true because vaccines don’t work. It’s true because vaccines are very popular. If a vaccine protects 90% of the people who get it, and 95% of a group of 1,000 people get it, then 950 people will be vaccinated, 95 of them will get the disease in our hypothetical outbreak, and the 50 unvaccinated people will get it. Nearly twice as many of the sick people are vaccinated, but the vaccine still prevented illness in 855 people! It wasn’t the vaccine effectiveness that was lacking, it was my understanding of math.

During this time, Andrew Wakefield’s study was being torn apart in scientific circles as well as the popular press. These were the final blows. I was no longer afraid of vaccines. Now I was very, very angry. I was livid that this man, in his greed to promote his own MMR vaccine, had falsified data and performed unethical experiments on children. But mostly I was enraged that he had fooled me. Not only was my son now behind on his boosters, but I’d had a micropreemie daughter, and refused her early vaccines. While we were very lucky that neither of them caught a vaccine-preventable illness, the fact that he tricked me into putting my children at risk can never be forgiven.

People will sometimes ask me, “Do you think that antivaxxers’ minds will ever be changed?” I honestly don’t know. I think there is a cohort which is indeed intractable. These are the people who didn’t reason themselves into their position, so they cannot be reasoned out. They are acting out of fear and stubbornness, and I don’t know if that can be fixed. But I do know there’s another group. There are some who did reason themselves, educated themselves, into their anti-vaccination stance. Most of my friends are brilliant, educated people. They are afraid, but they’re also well-read…they’re just reading the wrong things. And for that group, for my group, I beg you… don’t give up on us. We can be reasoned out of it again with better information. It’s not easy, but it’s worth saving lives by trying.

5 things you probably didn’t know about vaccines

This post originally appeared on HealthMap’s Disease Daily on September 9, 2014. It has been reposted here with permission from the authors.

This image depicts a number of what were “suspected” smallpox scab fragments, from the archives of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) by James Gathany

This image depicts a number of what were “suspected” smallpox scab fragments, from the archives of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) by James Gathany

By Jane Huston and Robyn Correll Carlyle

1. More than half of all routinely recommended vaccines given to children were all developed by the same guy.

Musicians have Mozart. Physicists might have Einstein. But VacciNerds have Maurice Hilleman.

Hilleman worked to develop eight of the 14 routinely recommended vaccines on the childhood immunization schedule, and 36 vaccines in total. He is credited for likely saving more lives than any other scientist in the 20th century.

But despite his contributions to the world of vaccinology, few people know his story.

2. The first attempt at immunization actually involved snorting smallpox scabs.

Long before Edward Jenner developed the first-ever vaccine, there was a technique known as variolation. People in Asia, Africa and the Ottoman Empire would take scabs from a smallpox patient and blow them into people’s noses to purposely infect them with smallpox. The induced illness was often milder, and the result was lifelong immunity from the disease.

Given the rigorous testing we now use to ensure vaccine safety, the technique seems haphazard and irresponsible by today’s standards. But compared to a naturally acquired infection, it was a much better option. Only one to two percent of individuals undergoing variolation died, compared to the roughly 30 percent who died after contracting smallpox on their own.

3. Despite more vaccines, kids actually receive fewer antigens now than they did 100 years ago.

Antigens, you’ll recall, are the part of the pathogen — a disease-causing agent, such as a virus or a bacterium — that the immune system learns to recognize and fight. When our body encounters these antigens (whether by vaccination or natural infection),, we develop antibodies matched to a particular antigen. This allows the  body to identify and destroy future invasions from the same pathogen, preventing you from getting sick.

It’s reasonable to assume that the more vaccines are added to the schedule, the more antigens are introduced into a child’s immune system. But we’ve come a long way in vaccine technology. And while children today might receive more vaccines than their parents (14 to their parents’ seven for example), they actually receive fewer antigens than the generations before them.

In 1900, the only vaccine that was routinely given to children was the smallpox vaccine, which contained roughly 200 antigens. In 1960, kids routinely received five vaccines, totaling 3,217 antigens. In 1980, the seven vaccines administered contained 3,041 antigens.

In 2000? The 11 routine vaccines contained fewer than 150.

4. Pregnant women can (and should!) be vaccinated.

There are a lot of “Do’s and Don’ts” in pregnancy. But while it’s a good idea to steer clear of alcohol and poorly cooked meats, there are a few vaccines that pregnant women should receive to protect their own health and the health of their child.

Diseases like flu can be incredibly dangerous for pregnant women. In fact, women in their second or third trimester are more than four times more likely than nonpregnant women to be hospitalized because of influenza-related complications. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a flu shot for women pregnant during flu season. It’s the best defense we have against this deadly disease.

Another important vaccine for pregnant women is the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine. When given in the third trimester, Tdap can help not only protect the mom from getting pertussis (or “whooping cough”), but it also passes on that protection to the baby. This is important because pertussis is highly contagious and is much more serious for small children than adults.

Not all vaccines are recommended or safe during pregnancy, however. It’s important for pregnant women to talk with their provider about what vaccines they might need.

5. The first vaccine against cancer was licensed in the 1980s.

You’ve probably heard about the HPV vaccine and its ability to protect against cancer. Given that HPV is responsible for 5 percent of all cancers worldwide, the arrival of this vaccine in doctors’ offices in 2006 was a huge victory for public health.

But the HPV vaccine wasn’t the first cancer vaccine available. That title goes to the very first Hepatitis B vaccine, licensed in 1981.

More than 1,000 people are estimated to die every year because of Hepatitis B-related liver cancer — some of whom were infected as infants. The first vaccine (created by none other than our personal hero Maurice Hilleman) was created using purified plasma. It was safe and effective at preventing Hepatitis B– but it arrived just as people were becoming terrified of HIV and tainted blood products, and was not well received.

But Hilleman was nothing if not tenacious, and a new Hepatitis B vaccine using recombinant DNA technology was licensed in 1986.

The vaccine is so safe that its given to infants the day they’re born.

Jane manages the Vaccine Finder project at Health Map, the host site of the Disease Daily. Robyn is a contributing writer for the Disease Daily and works as a project manager for a non-profit focused on vaccine education. Both are fully up-to-date on their immunizations.