What Anti-Vaccinators Are Saying Online About the Disneyland Measles Outbreak

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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As the Disneyland measles outbreak swells — the number of cases in the U.S. has ticked up to 102 infections in 14 states, most of which link back to the the iconic theme park — the anti-vaccination community has been having a crisis dialogue within its own ranks. 

California officials have said they know the vaccination status of 34 of the 59 people infected in the Disney outbreak, and at least 28 were unvaccinated. Even while vaccination rates in California are close to the U.S. average, those numbers disguise differences among communities that have fallen below threshold for "herd immunity" — the collective level of inoculation that protects even the unvaccinated. Fifteen years ago, the CDC declared measles had been eliminated in the U.S. — last year there were 644 cases nationwide. “There is every reason to get vaccinated — there aren’t reasons to not,” President Obama told Today on Monday, responding to the outbreak.

So how do anti-vaxxers respond to all this? Looking at anti-vaccination and non-vaccination online forums, many on motherhood and pregnancy sites, opinions range from dismissal to anger. Some blame the media and the medical industry for blowing the outbreak out of proportion or willfully concealing the real culprit — of which several are posited. There's frustration for being called ignorant. There's acceptance that a child might get measles, but there's also worry that he or she could spread it to vulnerable others.

The messages are a lens into a movement that has grown enormously over the past two decades, but which tends to communicate outside mainstream channels. Not everyone on the anti-vaccine forums is an absolutist — many identify as "delayed" or "selective" vaxxers, meaning they've postponed, but haven't necessarily entirely written off, vaccinations, or have chosen to give their kids only a few shots instead of the full slate.

Here's a snapshot of those discussions:

Mothering Forum: I'm Not Vaccinating Threads:

mamakah:

We have a Disneyland trip planned in just under two months. DS is unvaccinated, and although I'm not afraid of measles, I acknowledge that for some it could be problematic and don't necessarily want him to be a/the "typhoid mary" and contract and spread the disease via airports, airplane rides, etc.

Anne Jividen:

Sorry, I just watched the CNN piece on the Disneyland measles outbreak ... and I'm feeling snarky and extremely frustrated over the lack of real information concerning this latest outbreak. Just more and more bashing of the unvaccinated. I've also noticed how MSM has stopped reporting how many vaccinated people have also contracted the infection as the outbreak peaks.

serenbat:

Non-vaccers are just filled with measles ready to pop out at any moment! I did post links since its documented that one can be vaccinated and still spread the disease. It originated someplace, I know it's easy to push all the blame on non-vaccers first.

beckybird:

They shift the blame to others, and deny problems with the vaccine until there is too much evidence to ignore. Then, without skipping a beat, a new vaccine or a new recommendation will hit the market... people will shift to the new "improved" vaccine, or the updated recommendation for more boosters, and business will continue as usual. There will always be people who have problems with vaccines, and they will always be ignored or ridiculed. Nothing changes!

kathymuggle:

That being said, I am glad most of those with measles turned out to be "unvaxxed"! This is a natural risk non-vaxxers take: we do not vaccinate and (all things being equal) stand a higher chance of getting measles. I take my chances with measles, and it has little effect on a vaccinated person, as the vaccine actually works. High efficacy rates are good for everyone - and takes a lot of the wind out of any herd immunity arguements. You truly can vaccinate and feel relatively certain you will not get mealses. I wish all vaccines were as effective as the measles portion of MMR.

applejuice:

The fact that no measles cases were reported in 2000 may be the result of clueless young pediatricians not knowing what they are looking at.

Deborah:

When it comes to measles, the argument is that the vaccine is effective, therefore everyone needs to be vaxxed to protect the vulnerable. But if the measles vaccine is really that effective, a small group of people turning it down are not going to be able to create a large enough outbreak to cause serious problems, therefore harassing that small group is just being mean, rather than putting public health efforts into areas where they are really needed, like antibiotic failure.

ss834:

One myth being perpetuated here is that non/del/sel vaxxers don't love their children and don't want to protect them. It's inflammatory and its effect can be seen by the comments left under media vaccine articles such as "I hope their kids die", "they should lose the right to parent", "keep their kids out of public".

Baby Center Community, None/Select/Delayed Vaccinations Threads:

LisseyV:

Originally I was planning to delay vaccinations for my oldest DS (3 years) but as he got older I felt more comfortable with not getting him any shots until he was substantially older. Now I have a newborn in the house and I have all sorts of fears about my decision. I think my fears are also being fueled by the numerous articles regarding the measles cases in California and the hateful comments people make towards "anti-vax" parents. Thing is, I would not classify myself as anti-vax. I constantly research and reevaluate my position but I have never had that "ahh I'm now ready to give my oldest his shots" moment. I'm planning on having most of my oldest done before kindergarten but originally I intended on starting them when he was 2.

 WholeLiving:

....it's tough to go against the grain for sure, especially in this climate. I keep hoping that something will change...the media will publish something that will let the general public know how corrupt and toxic the vaccine industry really is. Wishful thinking I know. I just try to arm myself with knowledge.

 Oneblessedmum:

The ignorance is scary isn't it? What's the worst is the people saying it should be illegal not to vax!! Really!!? People actually think it's a good idea for the government to have control over what medications we're taking now?

LeahHouser:

DH and I were rolling our eyes at a local news story about this last night. All it said was there are 78 cases traced back to Disneyland and everyone should go get vaxed!! 78 cases. Are any severe? Is anyone even in the hospital? Probably not. My fave part was they of course showed that stock CDC photo of a kid with severe measles (you know the one, we've all seen it), just to scare some people into vaxxing. Never mind how many of these cases are in vaxed people

bliwichert:

My question is how did it start in the first place. Did someone with measles actually go there or was it a recently vaccinated child shedding the virus and infecting people? I think the latter.

symmet:

I'm very worried about state and local lawmakers and school districts cracking down on exemptions. They are completely misguided by fear and frothing at the mouth.

jateders22:

Of course the media takes opportunities like this to blow up any new topic. Just like Ebola was the main topic for a couple months and now it's dead. But I keep seeing these horrifically judgmental headlines about the measles being started by a non-vaxxed person. Is there actually proof to this claim? Or is this the media's way of another vax scare tactic? It has me doing new research of my part since my son is not vaxxed but I think I'm still at the conclusion that the MMR vax scares me more than measles do. Maybe I'm completely naive, maybe it's not close enough to home but I honestly feel like the media Is once again dramatizing the situation and using it to bully and scare the non-vaxers. 

QuinnKong:

How can there ever be a truly reasonable, peaceful discussion on the topic when the vast majority of news outlets blatantly push a particular agenda? There is virtually no balanced reporting. Dissenting views are ridiculed as quackery.

I have seen discussions where people demand to know why someone didn't or delayed vaccinations. When it's pointed out that people don't ask for the same from those that vaccinate without question it's said, "because we have science on our side". Yet, many have no idea how vaccines or the immune system work; vaccine ingredients; the likelihood of getting a particular disease (they say "thank herd protection" or something similar); how a particular illness/disease presents. ..and countless other things.

Innocentreyna:

I really think society doesn't want to know the truth, they cant handle the truth,fear is what drives the normalcy of their lives. Like the above comment says, people would be in panic and have no sense of control over their lives if they found out that their children were truly harmed by a vaccine that their trusted Dr. and Government reassured them that was safe and then have their 2 month old child die of S.I.D.S. shortly after. It's safer to not know the truth, but when one seeks the truth,it will be found.....

Cerrillos:

They accuse us of being uninformed but they are also uninformed (blaming non-Vaxers for pertussis outbreaks for example, even when the CDC says otherwise). No one dares question vaccines yet they brag about eating organic everything and they question food related toxins. I just think the rhetoric is vicious, and they think it's okay to talk about exterminating us as if we are the last people on earth who are unprotected by human decency/PCism. It's beyond weird.

MrsLanieB:

I'm a selective vaxer and I revealed that in pro-vaxers FB thread yesterday that I know personally, the lack of information and immaturity that ensued was crazy. I was told non-vaxers follow junk science and base their decisions from Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavalleri. I posted vaccine incidence rate from AAP for MMR and the vaccine injury website from the government. No response to that just blatant dismissal and disregard with reference to public health. And honestly, I'm too chicken to not vaccinate my daughter but I'm selective and prioritized a schedule that worked for us.

The Well-Trained Mind Community: Measles at Disneyland Threads:

DesertBloom:

Someone comes into the room yelling "SMALLPOX" and "POLIO" and it means the rest of us are supposed to turn around, bend over and allow pharmaceutical companies to inject what. ever they want into our backsides (or arms, or thighs). 

Elisabet1:

Using your shower is more deadly than the measles. You could slip and fall and die. Plus, traveling is dangerous. And do you know how dangerous those dollar coasters are?

Pharmaceutical marketing professionals use fear to sell their product. Look at old parenting books before the shots came out. They did not list the measles as highly deadly. But from the way commercials word it now, you would think it were a certain death sentence.