The Shot That Keeps on Saving Lives

A new medical study underscores what has been apparent to medical experts for years: Vaccines help save lives.

As reported in our Friday edition, it has been known for decades that measles suppresses a child’s immune system for several weeks or months, leaving him or her ill-equipped to fight off pneumonia, bronchitis, diarrheal diseases and other infections.

Now researchers are suggesting that the disease may also cause a longer-lasting sort of “immune-amnesia” that makes it harder for people to stave off other illnesses for two years or more.

That re-emphasizes the importance of vaccination, says Michael Mina, lead author of a paper detailing the research. “There may be a long-lasting impact that you can’t undo if your child gets measles,” he said. “I hope this study can impress upon people the danger measles poses.”

Data were collected from England and Wales, developed nations where disease levels are generally low, allowing a less-muddled view of measles’ effects. Studying measles incidence and deaths from infectious disease both before and after the introduction of the measles vaccine in the U.K. in the 1960s, the researchers learned that deaths from a variety of non-measles infectious diseases closely tracked the frequency of the contracting of measles. In other words, the more measles in a population, the more deaths from other illnesses in the 28-month period that followed.

The same trend emerged when they studied similar data from the U.S. and from Denmark. The same pattern was apparent, regardless of the age of the individuals or their country of residence.

Interestingly enough, the researchers did not see the same effect with rubella, suggesting that the explanation for the trend was indeed measles and not other factors, such as nutrition.

Other experts stressed that independent of the value of this particular study, measles, which still kills 150,000 people in the world every year, is a very dangerous disease on its own.

It is truly a chessed of Hashem that, in His infinite kindness, He gave mankind the wisdom to invent a vaccine that has helped save so many lives.