Measles vaccine
© John Woudstra
According to a recent report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, a measles outbreak in New York City in 2011 started with a fully-vaccinated individual. The first person infected was a young woman who had previously received two doses of the measles vaccine. She transmitted the infection to four other people, all of whom "had either two doses of measles-containing vaccine or a past positive measles IgG antibody."

Of the five people infected in the outbreak, three had records showing that they had received all recommended doses of the measles vaccine. The other two "showed signs of previous measles exposure that should have conferred immunity," according to an article in the magazine Science.

The authors of the Clinical Infectious Diseases report concluded that "[t]his outbreak underscores the need for thorough epidemiologic and laboratory investigation of suspected measles cases regardless of vaccination status."

To recap: everyone in the 2011 NYC measles outbreak had been previously exposed to the measles either naturally or through the vaccine. And at least three out of the five people infected had previously received all of the recommended doses of the measles vaccine.

Despite this, in his Science article about the outbreak, Nsikan Akpan asserts that "[i]f it turns out that vaccinated people lose their immunity as they get older, that could leave them vulnerable to measles outbreaks seeded by unvaccinated people . . . ." Akpan concludes the article with a quote from Robert Jacobson, director of clinical studies for the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota, who stated that "'[t]he most important "vaccine failure" with measles happens when people refuse the vaccine in the first place.'"

You don't have to be a scientist to understand that these conclusions do not follow from the information that Akpan presents in the article. Despite what the facts show - that a measles outbreak was "seeded" by a vaccinated individual, who then spread it to other vaccinated individuals - Akpan, like so many other authors of "scientific" articles, uses this as an opportunity to lambast "anti-vaxxers."