US eliminated rubella (and other diseases), why not COVID-19?

Nov 16, 2021, 4:22 PM
FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2015, file photo, pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman vaccinates 1 year-old Cameron Fierro with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The state coronavirus task force reported on Tuesday that there are more than three times as many COVID-19 patients in Utah’s hospitals right now as there were at the beginning of summer. Yet, the United States has a successful history of preventing serious diseases, including rubella:

14 Diseases You Almost Forgot About (Thanks to Vaccines)

Thanks to a successful vaccination program, the United States has been polio-free since 1979.

Applying the brakes

However, as of Monday, 12 states are suing to stop the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia are all listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, according to The Hill.

Earlier this month, at least 26 Republican-led states — including Utah — sued the Biden administration over a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for businesses with more than 100 employees, reports Fox 26 Houston.

Shots against rubella for tots

The United States mandates children in all 50 states be immunized against rubella.

Mandatory childhood immunizations have been part of the country since the 19th century. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee currently recommends routine vaccinations against 16 diseases from birth through age 18.

Rubella epidemic comes to US

A rubella outbreak in Europe traveled to the United States, and by 1964-65, there were more than 12 million cases in the country. Rubella spreads by airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing. In children, rubella is usually mild, with few noticeable symptoms. Up to 50% of children will not experience any symptoms, according to the CDC. But the virus is highly contagious: each infected person will infect, on average, between six and seven others.

For pregnant women, rubella is very dangerous:

The CDC says a woman infected with rubella during the first three months of pregnancy has a 90% chance of the baby not surviving or developing a severe of illness called Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), which can result in deafness, blindness, heart defects and severe permanent brain damage. During the US outbreak of 1964, more than 11,000 fetuses miscarried, died in the womb or aborted.

A vaccine for rubella was approved for use in the US and Europe in 1969. By 1971, it was combined with the mumps and measles vaccine to produce the MMR vaccine, in use today.

Virus wiped out in Americas

In 2004, rubella was eradicated from the United States. By 2015, it was eliminated in the Americas (35 countries in North and South America), according to research by Your Local Epidemiologist.

Yet, today more than 100,000 babies born each year around the world contract CRS. And, 5 out of 10 babies have no access to the rubella vaccine.

If the United States can drive disease out of the country, shouldn’t COVID-19 be next?

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US eliminated rubella (and other diseases), why not COVID-19?