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An anti-vaccination parent outside a vaccines hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 5, 2019. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Between Jan. 1 and March 7, the CDC confirmed 228 cases of measles across 12 states.

Why it matters: These outbreaks — which have been especially large in Washington, Oregon and Texas — were predictable. A 2018 study of vaccination rates identified a dozen likely hotspots, two of which have now seen eruptions of this preventable illness.

Background: The current anti-vaccine movement began more than 20 years ago after a paper published in The Lancet (but later retracted) claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine could be linked to autism.

Where it stands: Since then it's spawned a media empire that includes almost 500 anti-vaccine websites, each amplified on social media. Almost all of Amazon's best-selling vaccine books are by anti-vaxxers, though the company has removed some anti-vaccine documentaries from its Prime streaming service.

  • The anti-vaccine movement has also added political arms, with PACs in multiple Western states lobbying legislatures to maintain or expand vaccine exemptions — moves that would all but ensure future outbreaks.
  • U.S. public health agencies have been reluctant to launch highly visible advocacy campaigns to combat anti-vaccine messaging. Meanwhile, Australia's government has launched a 12 million Australian dollar ($8.5 million) initiative.

What’s needed: Countering the anti-vaccine movement would require dismantling its media presence through a partnership between the federal government and the major social media and e-commerce platforms. In parallel, states with outbreaks underway could help stem their growth by closing non-medical vaccine exemptions.

What to watch: The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate HELP Committee have each held hearings on the outbreaks, but have yet to formulate new policies. If no action is taken, the number of cases will likely continue to climb.

Peter Hotez is a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.” He met with congressional staffers ahead of the recent hearings.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.