Measles: Facts and Misconceptions in a Near-Hysterical Media Environment

Above image:
U.S. government-provided photo of a child with measles in the past. (No photos of patients from the 2019 record outbreak have been produced as of this publication date.)

You probably know that the U.S. has broken the record for number of measles cases in recent years. You also likely know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says “high coverage” with measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the most effective way to limit the spread of measles.

Here are some other facts CDC released this week about the 2019 outbreak:

  • 67% of cases are in New York City and New York state.
  • All of the original sources of infection are foreign countries.
  • The most number of cases came in from the Philippines, followed by Ukraine.
  • So far, there are no reports of measles-related brain damage or death, which are very rare.

Read the CDC’s latest on the 2019 U.S. measles outbreak here.

Along with the facts, a great deal of propaganda and misreporting is stoking near-hysteria among some. 

Fact check and sourcing on 10 statements you may have heard about the 2019 U.S. measles outbreak

1. “The measles was eradicated in the U.S., but now it’s back.”

False, according to CDC. 

“Eradicated” is a term CDC reserves for elimination of a disease worldwide, such as smallpox. The measles was declared “eliminated” from the U.S. in 2000.

2. “Until now, the measles hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since 2000 when CDC declared the disease ‘eliminated’.” 

False, according to CDC. 

There have been measles outbreaks every year in the U.S. since CDC declared the disease “eliminated” in 2000. According to CDC, “eliminated” doesn’t mean no cases occur; it means that all cases originate from sources outside of the U.S. 

Each year, including in 2019, transmission of measles has been sourced exclusively to travelers or visitors who bring in the disease from outside of the U.S., according to CDC.

In 2018, 82 people brought measles to the U.S. from other countries. CDC states, that’s “the greated number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.”

Also, according to CDC: many U.S. measles cases in 2014 were sourced to the Philippines.

In 2011, most of the measles cases brought into the U.S. came from France. 

3. “The U.S. measles outbreak is exclusively due to unvaccinated people.”

False, according to CDC.

Not all of the measles patients and carriers are unvaccinated people; some were fully or partly vaccinated. 

In 2019, CDC says 71% of infected patients in the U.S. were known to be unvaccinated.

Twenty-nine per cent (29%), or about one in three, were vaccinated or had unknown/unproven status.

4. “Vaccinated people don’t get or spread measles.”

False, according to CDC.

CDC says measles can sometimes be spread by vaccinated children and adults. This is neither rare nor new

For example, in 1983 and 1984, CDC says the measles was transmitted within a U.S. school “with a documented immunization level of 100%.”

In 1984, there was a measles outbreak in a U.S. high school with a documented vaccination level of 98%. Seventy per cent (70%) of the cases were among those who had measles vaccination and were “therefore considered vaccine failures.”

Measles outbreaks in 1989 among vaccinated school-aged children in the U.S. prompted CDC to recommend a second dose of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine for children.

Even so, a 2017 outbreak of measles among soldiers in Israel involved a primarly patient who had received three doses of measles vaccine; the eight additional patients had received at least two doses.

Outbreaks of mumps in the U.S. have also been traced to many previously-vaccinated patients. 

For example, in 2006 the CDC noted mumps outbreaks in people “with high coverage of two doses of MMR vaccine,” resulting in 6,584 cases.

In 2017, after rising incidence of mumps among vaccinated people in the U.S., the government began looking at recommending a third MMR shot for some in certain mumps outbreak situations.* 

Though it’s not uncommon for vaccinated people to get and spread a disease, experts say the risk is higher for unvaccinated people.

When asked about the spread of disease by and among vaccinated patients, CDC said the following:

Although vaccination produces lower antibody levels than natural disease, both serologic and epidemiologic evidence indicate that the vaccine [MMR measles component] induces long-term — probably lifelong — immunity, in most persons.

–Centers for Disease Control

*A 2016 study suggested the third dose approach was not effective

5. “Everyone should get their measles shot” or “Everyone should get vaccinated.”

False, according to CDC.

CDC recently recommended that children should not get MMR vaccine if they have “a parent, brother, or sister with a history of immune system problems.”

There are other health factors that CDC says disqualify children from getting MMR vaccine. Manufacturer-acknowledged “contradindications” are listed beginning on page 7 here

Each vaccine has its own set of caveats for those who should not receive it.  

6. “There are no side effects from measles vaccine.”

False, according to CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.

Manufacturer-acknowledged adverse reactions from MMR vaccine are listed beginning on page 6 here

Though not mentioned on the CDC page about safety risks, the risks of MMR vaccine include brain damage (encephalopathy). They also include a “usually fatal brain disorder” when severely-compromised individuals who should not be vaccinated are mistakenly given MMR vaccine. 

All medicine has side effects, but CDC considers the risk of measles vaccine (and any approved vaccine) to be lower than the risk of the disease it purports to prevent.

Sometimes that calculus has proven to change or be incorrect. The government has sometimes removed previously-approved vaccines from the market for safety reasons. 

This happened with oral polio vaccine, which was long given to children even though it (rarely) transmitted polio, and a safer injectable version was available. CDC removed oral polio vaccine from the U.S. market in 2000. 

In 1999, the government also removed a rotavirus (diarrhea) vaccine from the U.S. market due to safety risks in children.

CDC acknowledges that vaccines that are considered safe for the general population are dangerous for a minority of children.

To date, the little-known “vaccine court” has paid more than $4 billion in vaccine injury damages. 

7. “Measles is a highly dangerous disease for many in the U.S.” and “The measles (MMR) vaccine is a highly dangerous vaccine for many.”

Both false, according to various experts.

While measles can be miserable and— rarely– dangerous or deadly for the immune-suppressed or chronically ill, the disease was once treated as a routine childhood rite of passage in the U.S. and considered by scientists to be a “mild disease.”

Most people who catch measles in the U.S. will emerge with no longlasting effects and will have a lifelong immunity, according to scientists.

There has been one measles-related death in the U.S. in the past decade, according to CDC.

The death was that of a woman in Washington state who died in 2015. CDC did not have other details. News reports indicate the patient may have been vaccinated and had no obvious symptoms of measles, but was tested after she passed away. She “died of pneumonia, had other health conditions and was taking medications that suppressed her immune system,” said state health officials.

There have been three measles-related deaths in the U.S. since 2000. Two of them were in patients with serious underlying health conditions prior to the measles infection, according to health officials.

One of them was a 13-year old who had recently had a bone marrow transplant for chronic granulomatous disease. According to CDC, the patient “received a bone marrow transplant in October 2002, and died in January 2003. Measles was confirmed [after death] by a positive serologic test for measles IgM and isolation of measles virus from a brain biopsy.”

A second 2003 measles-related death happened to a 75 year old international traveler who was infected in Israel and got “measles pneumonitis and encephalopathy. Measles was confirmed by reverse transciptase-polymerase chain reaction from nasopharyngeal swab and urine,” according to CDC.

On the other hand, there have been 483 measles vaccine injury and death claims paid by the U.S. government since 1988.*

However, the seemingly larger number of serious vaccine injuries in the U.S. in of itself doesn’t imply the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than measles. That’s because millions more people get the vaccine than get measles in the U.S.

Obviously, scientists say, if fewer people were to be vaccinated, there would be an increase in serious complications from measles, and there would be fewer vaccine injuries.

*Because federal vaccine court is little known and limited, the actual number of vaccine injuries is believed to be much higher than the number administered in the court, according to vaccine court officials.

8. “Everyone needs to get vaccinated or preventable, deadly diseases will make a comeback.”

Mixed verdict, according to CDC and other scientists.

CDC agrees that if fewer people vaccinate, it will lead to greater spread of infectious diseases.

However, scientists such as former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Bernadine Healy, say the idea of “all vaccines” or “no vaccines” is a false choice.

They suggest there’s a middle ground that’s safer for all: learn which children are most susceptible to serious vaccine side effects, develop different vaccination recommendations for them, and safely vaccinate the rest.

Government medical experts have already identified and acknowledged several pre-existing factors that make children susceptible to vaccine injury including: family history of immune issues, mitochondrial disorder and Tuberous Sclerosis.

9. “The myth that vaccines cause autism originated with a fraudulent study in the U.K. that was debunked in 2010.”

True or False, depending on which government officials and records are consulted. 

There’s a well-established propaganda campaign to “close the door” on the vaccine-autism link and state “the science is settled,” by claiming the theory has a single origin that’s been “debunked.”*

However, it’s false to claim that the vaccine-autism link began or ended with the referenced study.

In fact, the ongoing controversy over vaccines and autism is being fueled by U.S. government resources and experts.

Six examples outlined below:

  • The government’s own pro-vaccine world-renowned medical expert recently signed an affidavit stating that science has proven vaccines can cause autism, after all, in “exceptional” cases. He claims when he told the government, they fired him as an expert witness and misrepresented his expert opinion in court. Last fall, vaccine safety advocates filed a complaint over this alleged government misrepresentation and coverup with the Department of Justice. There’s been no public follow up.
  • The former head of NIH, Dr. Bernadine Healy, stated that the vaccine-autism link had not been “debunked,” despite claims otherwise.
  • The government agreed vaccines triggered autism in a landmark case and paid damages to the family but had the case sealed, meaning other parents wouldn’t know. However, word of the case ulitmately leaked out. Much of the original national news reporting has been removed from the Internet, but there are a few surviving print articles and related videos.  
  • The government has paid numerous injury cases of children who became autistic after their vaccinations, as long as the injuries are described as “encephalopathy” (brain damage) rather than “autism.”
  • The CDC head of immunization safety has acknolwedged vaccines may rarely trigger autism in susceptible children.
  • Many peer reviewed, published studies suggest a link between vaccines and autism.

*You can read both sides of the UK study scandal below:

 Vaccine study and scientist discredited

Vaccine study and scientist defended

Meantime, government scientists held out as debunking the vaccine-autism link have also been the subject of controversy.

10. “It’s ‘anti-vaccine’ to raise or address vaccine safety issues.”


Plenty of pro-vaccine or neutral scientists, reporters and advocates examine vaccine safety. As a result of their legitimate investigation, many are falsely labeled “anti-vaxxers” or “anti-vaccine” by a well-funded propaganda campaign that seeks to prevent discussion of vaccine safety issues in the news, on the Internet or on social media. 

Known propagandists and outlets they use include:

  • The political smear group Media Matters and its affiliates
  • Wikipedia and Snopes
  • Blogs that often using titles with “science” or “skeptics” in them such as: “Science Based Medicine,” “Science Blogs,” “Respectful Insolence”/Orac,” “Vaxopedia,” and “LeftBrainRightBrain.”
  • The LA Times/Michael Hiltzik, Mother Jones/Kevin Drum, The Atlantic/David Frum, Vanity Fair, Salon, Seth Mnookin, Forbes, Vox, Every Child by Two, Dr. Peter Hotez, and the discredited vaccine industry insider Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

In fact, it can be argued that investigating vaccine safety issues is “pro-vaccine,” since it could prompt safety advances that would build public confidence in a robust government-backed vaccine program.

CDC government vaccine resources and related Sharyl Attkisson stories here.

Fight improper government surveillance. Support Attkisson v. DOJ and FBI over the government computer intrusions of Attkisson’s work while she was a CBS News investigative correspondent. Visit the Attkisson Fourth Amendment Litigation Fund. Click here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

42 thoughts on “Measles: Facts and Misconceptions in a Near-Hysterical Media Environment”

  1. Thank You , Ms. Attkisson, for your LUCID reporting and all you continue to do in making the vaccine issue facts Transparent for the public. Blessings on you & all your Good Works.

  2. Thank you for clearly explaining this whole mess. I’m tired of trying to help people understand that hateful shaming of people who are rightly afraid of vaccines are the devil’s army.

  3. Thank you Sharyl.. Finally a piece of journalism with facts and talking points on both sides. Refreshing!

  4. Thanks for reporting on this. It’s nice to read a balanced, fact-checked article with real information and none of the high emotion that’s so common nowadays in various news sources.

    It sure would be useful if parents and patients were given the disclosure leaflet prior to being given any vaccine the same way you’re given one before taking a new medication. It might help people feel informed instead of being blindly given the injection. It might help calm down the hysteria, too, with conspiracy theories on both sides of the argument.

  5. Great article. I plan on using all your points when I speak to my senator in CA regarding the bill SB276. Great resources and great information. Thank you.

  6. Thank you, Sharyl, for putting all these well-referenced facts together in one clear, comprehensive place in an effort to keep “measles madness” in perspective! God bless and take care…

  7. Absolutely fantastic. Clear and succinct with no emotion injected. I really appreciate having this article to share. Thank you so much for your hard and diligent work.

  8. John D. Lynch II,M.D.

    Mumps infection occurred with only 2 MMR vaccinations : Occasionally, male sterility develops from mumps infection. I do not know the % .Secondly, rubella infection can cause birth defects. I do not know how high this % is.Thirdly, measles infection for the first time in adults, can be much more serious, especially if secondary bacterial infection develops in a weakened adult host. Measles is like chickenpox in this regard. Hence, measles parties occur to make sure measles occurs in childhood, much like what occurs with chickenpox.

    1. John, rates of sterility have increased since the mumps vaccine and rates of congenital defects have not fallen since the rubella vaccine (source: CDC).

      Both vaccines are completely useless – as is the measles vaccine component.

      What happens is that doctors will typically refuse to diagnose or test for a condition if the patient is vaccinated. Measles in a vaccinated patient will be called roseola, 5th disease, hand foot and mouth etc. Parotitis symptoms will be blamed on some other virus or bacteria instead of mumps and congenital defects will be blamed on some environmental factor instead of rubella.

      By the way, this is true of *all* vaccines, including smallpox, diphtheria, polio etc. Rates of paralysis have actually increased since the polio vaccine. We just don’t call it polio.

      By the way, before people say “but what about the viruses/bacteria?” this actually reinforces my point. We virtually never bothered to check to see if the measles or polio (let alone smallpox) viruses were present in patients before their vaccines came out. We assumed they were there. Now we require such tests before a diagnosis can be made. So this reinforces my point about the diseases just being renamed.

  9. Thank you for this but you missed the most important fact of all.

    Doctors typically refuse to diagnose or test for measles if the patient is vaccinated. Rashes occur all the time and are completely harmless (albeit unpleasant) regardless of what they are called but in vaccinated patients, doctors will typically refuse to call it measles but instead blame roseola, 5th disease, hand foot and mouth etc.

    You don’t catch a rash from anybody. The notion that you can is absurd. Think about it. Rashes occur on focused parts of the body. Some people might even get them on say, both hands and nowhere else. How on earth could a virus do that? If a rash was caused by a virus then it would be spread evenly around the body (ie anywere the bloodstream can reach because viruses go where the bloodstream goes). But most rashes are focused (to some degree). So rashes cannot be caused by viruses. If you want to know what causes viruses then think about the only thing in the universe that knows what parts of your body correspond to other other parts.

  10. You are a hero! Thank you approaching this issue with rationality and integrity. The truth will come to light because of people like you.

  11. While you’re at it, could you “research” the drug manufacturer’s info sheets for tylenol, motrin, aspirin, cold medicines, cough medicines that everyone uses and believe they are “completely safe” for all of your followers. EVERY drug has side effects, some minimal and some major. Yet many drugs only treat symptoms but vaccines prevent diseases that are harmful and potentially fatal. No one thinks twice about that aspirin or tylenol. I guess our society is all about getting sick and spending lots of money to treat the illness instead of trying to prevent getting the illness. Hmm…

    1. Many people do think twice before taking aspirin or tylenol; I am one of them. Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, among other things, and tylenol can cause liver damage. Why take them for symptoms that can be relieved in other ways, like rest, relaxation exercises, and gentler herbal supplements that have been around for thousands of years and have been well tested by human experience, if not clinical trials.
      As for vaccines preventing disease–it’s all about the cost. Just like you have a right to choose tylenol for your headache and I have a right to choose not to, I should have the right to choose not to vaccinate if I feel that the risk-benefit ratio is too high, or unknown. (Unknown risk doesn’t mean no risk, it just means you don’t know what the risk is.)
      As for our society getting sick and spending lots of money to treat illness–you may not have seen the statistics from Johns Hopkins–250,000 to 400,000 people die each year as a result of medical error, and that’s not counting the many tens of thousands who die from properly prescribed medication. In the years before the measles vaccine was introduced, there were 400-500 deaths a year from measles–akin to the number of people who died of lightning strikes. And that’s not touching the pharma engineered opioid crisis…

  12. Smallpox vaccine was administered with a bifurcated needle.
    Polio was a drop of liquid on a sugar cube.
    Modern vaccines are combinations of multiple antigens plus all kinds of other crap like squalene, polysorbate 80, aluminum, mercury, dead baby cells, and who knows what else.

    Science: Witch Doctor must inject witches’ brew directly into bloodstream because the vax voodoo juju don’t work if I don’t.

    But Big Pharma isn’t going to develop safer, easier, topical or oral or nasal spray vaccines while they have legal immunity and they can make big bucks from the mandated vaccinations.

    I recently got a bad cut and a Tetanus vaccine was recommended. But I couldn’t get one. I had a choice between DPT and DT (diptheria, pertussis) witches’ brews. So I rejected it.

    1. I had the tetanus only shot and had for 3 days had a high fever and I could not stay away more than a few minutes. It still contains thimerosal as well.

    2. Tetanus vaccine takes about three weeks to activate. So getting tetanus shot right after a large cut is pointless. Clean the wound thoroughly and it will heal fine.

  13. Please write a book about this and put your references in print so that they can’t be buried, hidden or deleted. One day the powers that be may wipe all of the data regarding vaccines off of the internet. and we’ll have no access to it. Thank you.

  14. In PA, House Bill 286 Informed Consent Protection Act. Says a health provider could not “harass, coerce, scold or threaten” a patient or parent for refusing immunizations. Doctors in turn could not accept bonuses or other incentives from insurance or drug companies for vaccinating patients.
    Independent Blue Cross, the regions largest health insurer, defended its practice of offering financial incentives to doctors who provide preventive services, including screenings and vaccinations.
    This was taken from the Pittsburgh Post Gazatte (Wednesday, May 1, 2019)
    Whether you decide to vaccinate or not…. every parent should be outraged that Drs. are using your kids to supplement their income.

  15. WestcoastDeplorable

    Thanks Sharyl, for presenting the facts on measles. It makes me wonder what really drives all the hype; at least 10 people nagged me in one way or another to “get your flu shot”. Years ago when I last got one, it seemed to GIVE me the flu and I was sick as a dog a a couple of times.

  16. Thank you Sharyl for being an honest journalist. Something we don’t have much of anymore, even in the United States. Took this issue to open my eyes, and now I see it everywhere. I question everything. It’s sad most don’t take the time to think critically, and leave it to the “professionals.” In this case the professionals don;t even know much about vaccines, other than how to administer them, and shrug off a vaccine reaction as a coincidence.

  17. Thanks Sharyl… one of the few true journalist left in the US, not bought by corporate media.

  18. This article is fantastic!
    I only have one point to add that I think many, many people are missing. You gave the number (somewhere near 500) of cases that vaccines were found to have created injuries and were awarded victories in a court of law. This number does not accurately reflect ACTUAL vaccine related injuries that have occurred. Most doctors refuse to report (even if they suspect) or even consider that what has happened occurred because of vaccine correlation. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even a “box” listed for “vaccine related” as a cause that can be checked when a doctor or coroner gives a cause of death…. SIDS is the closest option (which basically says we don’t know).
    It’s unbelievable how many stories are out there that have photo and video documentation of perfectly normal children suddenly changing either dramatically or beginning a serious decline in behavior, or begin having seizures, or they suddenly pass in their sleep, etc after a round of shots that have never been reported in the medical field because no doctor will label their condition as vaccine related or it didn’t occur immediately after vaccinations?

    I personally know a family that their pediatrician told them he was 99% positive that their child had austism due to the regular routine vaccines, but not to quote him on that anywhere. He didn’t want to lose his license.
    While certainly not all medical or mental issues are actually vaccine related….I do believe that
    no one has scratched the surface of what injuries (and even compromised immune systems) have actually occurred due to lack of actual accurate reporting.
    How many actual, real cases are there that have not been and are not being reported? We may never fully know.
    Once we have the correct statistics….it would likely be a game changer (and a bankrupter!).


    There are multiple grammatical errors in your article. I wish you could hire an editor to check your spelling and grammar as it detracts from what is otherwise a nice review of the issues. Many educated people are turned off by grammatical errors. One is forgivable, more than one is sloppy.

Scroll to Top