Politicians disagree on measles, acclaimed missionary doctor Naylor says 'vaccinate'

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Jodi Krawitt holds her son Rhett, 6, in their home in Corte Madera, California January 28, 2015. Rhett is recovering from leukemia and his father is concerned his child could succumb to an outbreak of measles at his Northern California school. Krawitt is asking officials to bar entry to any student not vaccinated because of a family's personal beliefs. | REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

DALLAS, Texas (Christian Examiner) – "Vaccinate," says Rebekah Naylor, now with Baptist Global Response and previously attending surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

She was known as the Mother Teresa of Bangalore for the 35 years she spent as a medical missionary in India, dealing with everything from measles to malaria and so much more.

Rebekah Naylor's association with the Bangalore Baptist Hospital and her medical ministry to the people of India began more than 40 years ago, in 1973. | SBC INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD/Will Stuart

"Children should routinely be vaccinated for measles," Naylor told the Christian Examiner. "This is not only for the child's protection but also protects others whom he may infect if he gets measles."

The "to vaccinate or not" question has erupted in debate in recent days because of news reports about a growing outbreak—more than 100 children have contracted measles—which apparently originated at Disneyland.

Political pundits, some are physicians with opposing views, have seized on the moment to either stress parental freedom in making the decision, or to reassure parents of the vaccine's safety and the need to protect children from a disease more infectious than the Ebola virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it the largest outbreak of measles in 15 years, reminding the public only about 220 cases are recorded a year and already half that number has been treated in the first month of 2015.

In 1963, the childhood vaccine which protects against mumps, measles and rubella, came into wide use. But the safety of the inoculation came under question in 1998 with an article in the medical journal The Lancet. The paper was later determined to contain fraudulent research but it catalyzed fears of links of the MMR shot to colitis and autism spectrum disorders.

The situation was exacerbated in 2000 when the government declared measles essentially had been eradicated.

Rebekah Naylor received a red shawl, Jan. 11, 2013, during the 40th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Bangalore Baptist Hospital. Dr. Naylor's association with the hospital began in 1973. | SBC INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD/Will Stuart

These two factors combined to cause an unknown number of parents to choose not to immunize their children with the MMR vaccine "just in case" it might be harmful, so there is a suspected large population of children vulnerable to infection.

Doctors are refusing to treat children who have not been vaccinated, in order to protect other patients. Likewise, parents are calling on schools to protect the whole of the student body by suspending any pupil who is not immunized.

Naylor said parents should calm their fears, and if there are special circumstances relating to a child's specific medical condition, they should seek advice from the family physician.

"All studies have shown the safety of the vaccine," the acclaimed physician said. "If your child has chronic medical issues, consult your doctor regarding the vaccine."