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Measles Outbreak in Chicago Migrant Shelter Reveals at Least 28 Percent Were Vaccinated

homeless man sleeping on bench

Following identification of 15 cases of measles in a Chicago shelter that houses migrants from Venezuela, city public health officials announced on Mar. 20, 2024 that “measles is circulating in our city. And it’s why we are putting a call out for everyone who is at risk to protect themselves now” by getting a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot.1 On Apr. 23, the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health told doctors to consider giving children living in the city a second dose of MMR vaccine “earlier than usual,” warning that “too many Chicagoans are still not vaccinated against this highly contagious virus and other vaccine preventable diseases.”2

On May 16, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that a total of 57 confirmed measles cases had been confirmed in residents of the city migrant shelter or close contacts, and that 16 of the cases (28 percent) had received one or two doses of measles vaccine “more than 21 days before first known exposure,” while 41 cases (72 percent) “did not have documentation of measles vaccination and were considered unvaccinated.”3

CDC officials admitted that during the spring 2024 measles outbreak among mostly Venezuelan migrants at the Chicago shelter, “the percentage of measles cases among persons with a history of previous vaccination was higher than that reported through recent national surveillance in the United States.”4 They blamed the nearly 30 percent measles vaccine failure rate on “prolonged or close exposure to measles virus” among residents of the crowded shelter and said that Venezuela had seen a drop in first-dose measles vaccination coverage for children twelve months and older from 95 percent to 68 percent between 2017 and 2021 because of worldwide “disruption of routine immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” They also defended the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine by repeating the often-quoted mantra that “primary vaccine failure occurs in approximately 4% of recipients of 1 MMR dose and is rare among recipients of 2 MMR doses.”5

First Measles Case in Chicago Shelter Was Appropriately Vaccinated

According to the CDC, the first case of measles identified in the Chicago migrant shelter was in a one-year-old baby boy who developed a rash on Feb. 26, 2024 and was hospitalized a day later with suspected measles that was confirmed as wild type measles by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on Mar. 7. The child had arrived in the U.S. more than five months earlier and had gotten a dose of MMR vaccine five weeks before the measles rash appeared. He had not recently traveled or had a known exposure to measles.

Persons exposed to measles who did not have a rash but did have signs and symptoms of measles, such as fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), were tested, along with those who developed the telltale rash.  An MMR shot campaign was initiated in the shelter beginning on Mar. 8, within 24 hours of the confirmation of the first measles case. Public health officials recommended that babies over six months old get their first MMR shot and babies over 12 months old get a second MMR shot. By Mar. 11, about 93 percent of the 1,800 shelter residents had been vaccinated. In addition, Chicago public health officials held about 130 mass MMR vaccination events across the city’s 25 migrant shelters, administering about 9, 500 MMR shots.

Nearly 60 percent of the measles cases associated with the Chicago migrant shelter were in children under four years old. Just over 30 percent were in individuals 20 years and older.6

The First Migrant-Associated Measles Case in Chicago Was Acquired in U.S., Not Venezuela

The baby boy in the Chicago migrant shelter who came down with measles was vaccinated and had been in the U.S. for months before getting sick. CDC officials concluded:

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000; however, with ongoing global transmission, infections in the United States still occur. Although persons in the community affected by this outbreak had recently arrived in the United States, the index patient’s arrival in Chicago months before the illness onset suggests that the disease was acquired locally.7

CDC Reports Increase in Measles Cases in U.S. in 2024

On May 16, 2024 the CDC reported that a total of 139 measles cases were reported by 20 states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI) and New York City. There have been a total of 10 measles outbreaks reported in the U.S. compared to four measles outbreaks for 2023. So far in 2024, 54 percent of the measles cases have been hospitalized for isolation or to manage complications. There have been no deaths.8

CDC officials stated that, “vaccination coverage among U.S. kindergartners has decreased from 95.2% during the 2019-2020 school year to 93.1% in the 2022-2023 school year.”9

Between 2015 and 2019, public health officials, pharmaceutical company and medical trade lobbyists used measles outbreaks, notably in California10 and New York,11 to press state lawmakers in those and several other states to eliminate the personal belief and religious exemptions from vaccine laws.12 13

How Many Asymptomatic Measles Cases Are Occurring in the U.S. But Never Diagnosed?

The first live attenuated measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S. in 1963 and was combined into MMR vaccine in 1971.14 Very high vaccination rates with MMR and other federally recommended childhood vaccines of between 90 and 95 percent have been maintained among school children in America since the early 1980s. In 2011, federal health officials reported that, “Since 1981, immunization levels of students entering schools have been over 95%.”15 It has only been since 2022-2023 that vaccination rates among school children for MMR and other childhood vaccines reportedly have dropped a few percentage points.

CDC officials insist that “measles was officially eliminated from the United States in 2000, meaning there is no measles spreading within the country and new cases are only found when someone contracts measles abroad and returns to the country.”16 However, that was not true for the outbreak at the Chicago migrant shelter, where the first case was a baby who had been vaccinated at least five months earlier, had not traveled, and had not been known to be exposed to a person with measles—at least a person with symptomatic measles.

And there is the rub.

As I pointed out in my 2019 report on the science and politics of eradicating measles17 that was updated in a February commentary this year,18 what public health officials are not acknowledging is that for years there has been evidence published in the medical literature describing a growing number of break-through measles infections in vaccinated children and adults. Researchers, who recently published a study in Nature Microbiology on the dynamics of measles immunity following vaccination, described a 30 percent measles vaccine failure rate in China:19

The occurrence of break-through infections in vaccinated individuals is impeding measles elimination efforts. For example, a third of measles cases in China in 2013-2019 were in vaccinated individuals. These infections occur in individuals who fail to mount a robust vaccine response or in those whose immunity wanes post vaccination.

But a more significant inconvenient truth is that there are an unknown number of mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic cases of measles circulating in highly vaccinated populations like the U.S., which are never diagnosed, reported or counted in measles outbreak statistics. More than 25 years ago, CDC officials stated in the Journal of Medical Virology:20

Mild or asymptomatic measles infections are probably very common among measles-immune persons exposed to measles cases and may be the most common manifestation of measles during outbreaks in highly immune populations.

The extent to which those undiagnosed measles cases in vaccinated (or unvaccinated) persons are contributing to circulation of measles in the U.S. and other highly vaccinated populations is a scientific question that has not been answered by a medical community studiously ignoring the question.

How many more doses of MMR vaccine will be recommended in the future by public health officials doubling down in their relentless quest to eradicate measles from the earth by the year 2100?21 And how many lawmakers will bow to pressure from industry and medical trade lobbyists urging them to pass laws creating new MMR vaccine mandates without truly understanding why measles continues to circulate in the U.S. despite very high vaccination rates for more than 40 years?


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Click here to view References:
1 Cuevas E. Chicago moves to vaccinate people amid migrant shelter measles outbreak. USA Today Mar. 20, 2024.
2 Alpasan E. Providers Should Consider Giving Kids 2nd Dose of Measles Vaccine Sooner as Chicago Sees New Cases, Health Officials Say. WTTW News Apr. 23, 2024.
3 CDC. Measles Outbreak Associated with a Migrant Shelter – Chicago, Illinois, February-May 2024. MMWR May 16, 2024; 73(19): 424-429.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 CDC. Measles Cases and Outbreaks. May 16, 2024.
9 Ibid.
10 Richardson D. The Fallout from SB277: What Happens Next? National Vaccine Information Center Aug. 5, 2015.
11 National Vaccine Information Center. New York Bill Removing Religious Vaccine Exemption Turned Into Law on One Day with No Public Hearings. The Vaccine Reaction June 14, 2019.
12 Sampson H. Big Pharma Pulls the Strings in Maine. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 10, 2020.
13 Haigh S. Connecticut ends its state religious vaccine exemption. Associated Press Apr. 28, 2021.
14 Mayo Clinic. History of Measles Outbreaks and Vaccine Timeline.
15 Hinman AR, Orenstein WA, Schuchat A. Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Immunization, and MMWR 1961-2011. MMWR Oct. 7, 2011; 60(04): 49-57.
16 CDC. Measles Cases and Outbreaks. May 16, 2024.
17 Fisher BL. What Is Going on With Measles? The Science & Politics of Eradicating Measles. National Vaccine Information Center May 25, 2024.
18 Fisher BL. Measles Truth and Consequences. National Vaccine Information Center Feb. 29, 2024.
19Wang W, O’Driscoll M, Want Q et al. Dynamics of measles immunity from birth and following vaccination. Nat MIcrobiol May 13, 2024.
20 Helfand RF, Kim DK, Gary HE et al. Nonclassic measles infections in an immune population exposed to measles during a college bus trip. J Med Virol 1998; 56(4): 337-341.
21 Winter AK, Lambert B, Klein D et al. Feasibility of measles and rubella vaccination programmes for disease elimination: a modeling study. Lancet Glob Health 2022; 10(10).

8 Responses

  1. Another big nothing burger designed to create fear and the belief that you will die without getting tons of vaccines. All one big fat lie.

  2. I remember reading that the man who is credited for orchestrating the smallpox eradication program said at that time that it would NOT be possible to eradicate measles because it is too transmissible and it mutates.
    He later changed his mind, apparently, when a vaccine was developed, and spearheaded the vaccine program.

  3. would be interesting to know how many of those infected had covid shots and/or covid. it seems since the pandemic there has been an upsurge of various pathogenic diseases, sometimes presenting with unusual symptoms-syphilis first being diagnosed because of sudden blindness. this maybe because people’s immune systems have been undermined both by the shots and the disease

  4. That’s certainly a very confusing article. However, it would be fair to say MMR vaccines either don’t last long or work at all. I don’t trust public health officials. The way they implemented vaccine mandates is beyond disgusting.

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