Arizona measles outbreak – blame anti-vaccine employees

Here we go again. Department of Health Services officials in Arizona  have reported that 22 confirmed measles cases in the state associated with a Federal immigration detention facility. This Arizona measles outbreak has one source – Federal employees of that facility who refused to get vaccinated against measles.

We all know why people don’t vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella – the zombie myth that vaccines cause autism, which has been so utterly debunked that it gives new meaning to the word, debunked.

Let’s take a look at the root of the Arizona measles outbreak. I’m sure there are lessons to be had there.

Cause of the Arizona measles outbreak


Each of the 22 confirmed measles cases are related to the Eloy Detention Center, a prison run by the private corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Private prison corporations are a troubling issue far outside of the subjects for this blog, but if it were, I’d be writing dozens of articles.

Nevertheless, the facility is  part of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department. According to an AP report, “The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers.” The report estimates that there are about 100 ICE employees responsible for around 1200 immigration detainees.

After it was discovered that one of the detainees had a confirmed case of measles, all of the rest of them were vaccinated against the measles. Apparently, the consideration of keeping a single measles case from causing an out of control outbreak was key to the decision to vaccinate.

Unfortunately, the outbreak, which was just one detainee, spread quickly because of unvaccinated, to be fair, some with lapsed immunity, ICE and CCA employees refused to get vaccinated. This must be frustrating to the health officials trying to contain the Arizona measles outbreak.

Pinal County health director Thomas Schryer, “convincing employees to get vaccinated or show proof of immunity has proven much tougher.”

Excuses and more excuses


Of course, adults who are unvaccinated (or have some kind of lapsed immunity) against measles probably are influenced by other ideas – either, “I’m already immune” or “measles isn’t dangerous to me.” Health Department officials apparently heard most of the usual excuses for not getting vaccinated.

Back in 2000 (ancient times I guess), measles was considered eradicated in the USA. So, most people wouldn’t think that immunity to measles is all that important. Maybe I can excuse this, although not sure how a private prison employee has the education and background to dispute what a health department official might say.

On the other hand, the claim that measles isn’t dangerous is just plain ignorant.

First, setting aside issues to the patient who contracts measles, that individual then can pass the virus to children too young to be vaccinated, to immune-deficient individuals, or to other adults who have lapsed immunity. In other words, this ignoramus gets to spread the disease to others.

Second, measles in adults is potentially dangerous. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.” What are some of those complications? Well, they range from mild ones, like fever and ear infections, to major ones, like encephalitis and pneumonia.

And there is a small, but significant, risk of death from measles infections.

So, that measles isn’t dangerous trope? Ignore it, because even for adults, it’s dangerous.

But there is some good news – suddenly vaccination became more important to the employees. It’s possible that it’s too late, but at least it shook some employees into some rational thinking.

CCA claims that most of its staff at the Eloy Detention Center have been vaccinated or shown proof of immunity. The company has stated that those who have not provided evidence of either will be required to wear surgical masks (which has limited effectiveness), or they must stay home.

The Arizona Department of Health Services also reports that the employees (both ICE and CCA) have been “more responsive in the past few days” about being vaccinated. “Once they understand how important it is and the outcomes it can have on the community, they tend to cooperate.”

Yes, that’s “good news” I suppose, but it is way too late.

Vaccines stop measles outbreaks from ever happening. If you’re an adult, don’t ignore that.



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!