Before the development of a vaccine in the 1960s, the measles were practically a childhood rite of passage. This common childhood disease was not without teeth however. Between the years of 1958 and 1962 (the first measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S. by John Enders in 1963), the US averaged 503,282 reported cases of measles (1). Not surprisingly, after the measles vaccine became widely used, the number of cases of measles plummeted.
What was surprising was that the number of childhood deaths from all infectious diseases dropped dramatically as well.
The same phenomenon was observed in England and parts of Europe as vaccination programs were instituted in those places. Reduction or elimination of measles-related illness and death alone can’t explain the size of the decrease in childhood mortality. Although measles infection was associated with suppression of the immune system making the host vulnerable to other infections, these side effects, and the concurrent vulnerability to other infections, were assumed to be short lived. However, the post-vaccination numbers showing the drop in mortality from infectious diseases following vaccination for measles suggested that the effects of measles induced immunosupression might last for years, not months (2). Continue reading “Measles and Immunosuppression—When Getting Well Means You Can Still Get Sick”