One area of particular concern, the USA has counted more measles cases in the first two months of 2019 than in all of 2017 - and part of the rising threat is misinformation that makes some parents balk at a crucial vaccine, federal health officials told Congress in late February. Ethan Lindenberger (R), student at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Ohio, who confided in a now-viral Reddit post that he had not been fully vaccinated due to his mother's belief that vaccines are risky, speaks before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2019.
Lindenberger, a high school senior, told Senate lawmakers that he grew up understanding his mother's beliefs, but that "seeds of doubt were planted and questions arose because of the backlash my mother would receive". He said he'd show his mother scientific studies but she instead relied on illegitimate sources that "instill fear into the public".
An Ohio teenager who defied his anti-vaxxer mother's wishes and got all his shots at 18 has testified before Congress about risky the spread of misinformation is. He told lawmakers it's important "to inform people about how to find good information" and to remind them how unsafe these diseases really are.
Pressure to boost vaccinations has surged amid the worst measles outbreaks in years in several USA states including Washington, where the governor has declared a state of emergency. While deaths are rare in the USA, measles killed 110,000 people globally in 2017 - and unvaccinated Americans traveling overseas, or foreign visitors here, can easily bring in the virus.
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"As we contemplate forcing parents to choose this or that vaccine, I think it's important to remember that force is not consistent with the American story, not is force consistent with liberty our forefathers sought when they came to America".
There are now at least 206 confirmed measles cases reported across 11 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
"When you convince parents not that their information is incorrect but that their children are at risk that is a much more substantial way to cause people to change their minds", Lindenberger said.
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While Paul's remarks generated some audience applause, Sen. The boy's mother, however, said her 7-year-old already had his shots, so they need not worry. "But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security". They in turn are a hazard to people who can't get vaccinated - babies who are too young or people with weak immune systems.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Tuesday clashed with Sen. "I love babies. I want to protect them; I want to nurture them". As of January 2019, the National Conference of State Legislature reports that all 50 states require vaccinations for students to attend school, but there are exceptions for parents who wish to opt out.
Measles is highly contagious and can live in a room for two hours after an infected person coughed or sneezed. He and other witnesses pointed out that communities become vulnerable to preventable infections when not enough people have been vaccinated, a concept known as herd immunity.
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