Speaking before a Senate hearing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, Dr. Anne Schuchat, on Tuesday, rejected a Republican Senator’s attempt to link recent outbreaks of the measles to undocumented immigrants.
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy (R) confronted Schuchat with a question about the measles outbreak at Disneyland. The GOP freshman Senator asked: “Tell me, of those infected in the California epidemic, how many were native born Americans and how many had immigrated here?” Schuchat responded, “Most of the importations that we have of measles each year are in Americans who are traveling abroad and come back”.
Not satisfied, Senator Cassidy questioned whether wealthy anti-vaccine parents in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles could really be responsible. It must be foreigners, he implied. He then pivoted back to trying to blame immigrants arguing, ”there are a lot of immigrants, and a lot of those immigrants may have fallen between the cracks.” Again he was rebuffed by Schuchat, who pointed out that Latin America had taken on the elimination of measles, and that in fact, Measles outbreaks in the United States are being spread in the “wealthier communities”.
As the discussion continued, Schuchat also pointed out that the largest measles outbreak in the U.S. in 2014 occurred when Amish travelers brought the disease back from the Philippines. Because the community had low rates of vaccination, the outbreak spread quickly.
While Republican lawmakers are trying their best to blame undocumented immigrants for the measles outbreak, the reality is that most immigrant children are vaccinated. Many Latin American nations have higher immunization rates than the United States. For example, according to the World Health Organization, 99 percent of one-year-olds in Brazil, Nicaragua and Cuba, are vaccinated for measles. 94 percent of one-year-olds in El Salvador and 92 percent in Panama are vaccinated. All of these nations have higher vaccination rates than the United States’ rate of 91 percent. A couple of Latin American nations have slightly lower rates. Mexico (89 percent) and Guatemala (85 percent) lag slightly behind the U.S. but the difference is relatively small.
Not only does the United States have lower vaccination rates than much of South and Central America, but they have lower rates than that of many developing nations in Africa and Asia, as well. China (99 percent), Libya (98 percent), Iran (98 percent), Rwanda (97 percent), Egypt (96 percent), Botswana (94 percent), Kenya (93 percent), and Bangladesh (93 percent) all have a higher percentage of young children vaccinated than the United States does.
Senator Cassidy tried to spin the measles problem as an illegal immigration problem. However, the CDC Director corrected him and pointed out the obvious. The American resurgence of measles is an American problem, not a problem being imported by illegal immigrants. Arresting the spread of measles in America doesn’t require putting more troops on the border, it requires putting more vaccination needles in our children, including the kids of the well to do.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.