There have been at least two reported cases of children with measles in the United States this year that have turned out not to have been wild-type measles after all. The two cases involve children in Oakland County and Washtenaw County, Michigan. Both children had exhibited symptoms of measles and initially tested positive for the measles virus. However, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services conducted additional genotype lab testing of the virus identified in the children’s blood and determined that it was actually the attenuated (weakened) vaccine strain measles virus from the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine the children had recently received.1 2 3
In other words, the symptoms observed in the children by health officials were reactions to the MMR vaccine. The children did not have wild-type measles infections, as originally diagnosed and reported. According to a news report by the Detroit Free Press, “The MMR vaccine can sometimes cause a mild rash and fever. That, health officials say, is a vaccine reaction, not the measles, and people who’ve been immunized are not infectious after vaccination.”1
Susan Ringler Cerniglia, spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Department, was quoted as saying, “It [the vaccine strain virus] can give that false positive, but it can’t be transmitted and spread. You cannot get measles from the vaccine.”2
But are these statements that “you cannot get measles” from the MMR vaccine totally accurate? You may not be able to get wild-type measles from the MMR vaccine, but it is pretty clear you can get vaccine strain measles from the vaccine.
In its ProQuad (MMR-V) vaccine product insert, Merck & Co. states that serious complications were reported during post-marketing surveillance of ProQuad, which combines measles, mumps, rubella and varicella zoster vaccines into one shot. Those serious complications included both measles and atypical measles, as well as encephalitis (swelling of the brain), sclerosing panencephalitis, aseptic meningitis, pneumonia, respiratory infection, infection, varicella (vaccine strain), influenza, herpes zoster, orchitis, epididymitis, cellulitis, skin infection, retinitis, bronchitis, parotitis, sinusitis, impetigo, herpes simplex, candidiasis and rhinitis.4 5
Apart from Merck’s acknowledgement of reports of measles following MMR vaccination, the reality is that vaccine strain measles is associated with receipt of the MMR vaccine, as was demonstrated by the results of the genotype testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.1 2 3
It is important for doctors giving vaccines and parents of minor children or adults, who are getting MMR shots, to be aware that vaccine strain measles can cause symptoms that look just like the symptoms for wild-type measles. A 2014 report published by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), The Emerging Risks of Live Virus & Virus Vectored Vaccines: Vaccine Strain Virus Infection, Shedding & Transmission, noted:
There have been published reports of vaccine strain measles with clinical symptoms that are indistinguishable from wild-type measles. There are also a few reports of measles vaccine strain virus shedding and lab confirmed infection in children following MMR vaccination. In 2002, there was a published report by researchers in France of “a child presenting with fever 8 days after vaccination with a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Measles virus was isolated in a throat swab taken 4 days after fever onset. This virus was then further genetically characterized as a vaccine-type virus.”6
It is disingenuous for health officials to say that the MMR vaccine cannot cause measles but, rather, only measles-like “reactions.” The vaccine has been found to cause vaccine strain measles. The question that should interest anyone concerned about measles outbreaks is, “How does a measles vaccine that contains an attenuated virus have the ability to cause a measles infection in someone?” The following observation by retired neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, MD may offer some clues to the answer:
We know that when you inject live viruses in people, in a certain percentage of those people that virus will live for the rest of their life in their body. And they did a study on elderly people looking for measles virus in their tissues, and what they found is that if you looked at their brain, 20 percent of their brain had live measles virus in it. And if you looked at their other organs, about 45 percent of their organs had live measles virus in them
Now, when you make a live vaccine, what you do is you attenuate the virus so it won’t cause the measles. That’s the whole idea… that you take this virus and you run it through tissue cultures until the virus loses its ability to produce the measles illness. And you call that an attenuated virus, and you inject it into the person… hopefully getting an immune reaction and develop resistance.
Well, the problem, and this is discussed in the virology literature, is that when this virus enters your body and it doesn’t die, because of what we call a persistent virus, and grows there for decades, because your body is producing free radicals all the time, particularly when you get ill from something else, those free radicals bombard that virus’ DNA and it can attenuate it back to a fully pathogenic virus and even produce new diseases.7
This article or commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers. The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.
1 Shamus KJ. How 2 Michigan kids tested positive for measles, but didn’t have disease. Detroit Free Press Apr. 12, 2019.
2 Slagter L. It wasn’t measles, Washtenaw County health officials say after false positive. MLive.com Apr. 11, 2019.
3 Headapohl J. No Measles Outbreak in Ann Arbor After All. Detroit Jewish News Apr. 12, 2019.
4 National Vaccine Information Center. Can Measles Vaccine Cause Injury & Death?. NVIC.org.
5 Merck & Co. ProQuad® U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
6 Fisher BL. The Emerging Risks of Live Virus & Virus Vectored Vaccines: Vaccine Strain Virus Infection, Shedding & Transmission. National Vaccine Information Center 2014.
7 Russell Blaylock, MD on Attenuated Viruses Becoming Pathogenic Again. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 7, 2019.