A growing epidemic of measles in the Pacific Northwest has made dozens sick and spreads fears among many parents. The outbreak has infected at least 36 people in Oregon and Washington since the beginning of the year, and the governor of the Washington said the state of emergency. Two cases have also been reported in Hawaii among children from Washington.

New York State is also facing the worst epidemic it has seen in decades, with more than 200 cases of measles. In an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, where many parents avoid vaccines, 62 children contracted the disease.

Public health officials say these outbreaks underscore the importance of immunization – and the real risks posed by anti-vaccine movement. Almost everyone who became ill had not been vaccinated.

"These outbreaks are due to the anti-vaccine movement," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBSN AM.

He pointed out that the vaccine has been scientifically proven over many years to be safe and effective in preventing measles. However, some parents still refuse to vaccinate their children.

Abigail Eckhart is one of them. She refuses to vaccinate her youngest son because she said her second child had severe reactions.

"If I could go back there, I would not have vaccinated any of my children," said Eckhart.

Dr. Fauci said that even though parents like Eckhart should not be denigrated because they feared for their children, science has proven time and time again that vaccines are not dangerous, but save lives .

"The overwhelming scientific evidence over many years and decades indicates that the vaccine, especially the measles vaccine, is very safe," he said.

The claims about the health risks of vaccines "rest solely on manufacturing," he continued. "This has been proven There is no association between the measles vaccine and autism."

The North-West Epidemic Fueling Vaccine Denial Debate

The mistaken belief in kinship dates back to 1998, when a UK doctor published a now discredited study claiming that measles, mumps and rubella (ROR) was linked to autism. His research proved to be based on fraudulent datathe study was retracted and the doctor lost his medical license. However, this assertion has sowed fear among parents, giving birth to a small but vocal faction that is the current anti-vax movement.

According to Mr. Fauci, the latest outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest and New York, as well as in recent years such as the 2015 Disneyland Epidemic, are the direct result of this anti-vaccine movement.

"When you get below a certain level of vaccination in the community, that's how you catch epidemics, "he said. This has been scientifically proven year after year. "

Vaccination rate of 90 to 95 percent are needed to provide "collective immunity", which helps to protect babies too young to be vaccinated and others who can not get vaccinated for medical reasons.

The measles virus is extremely contagious. It spreads in the air and persists for hours. If a sick child coughs in a room and goes away, another unvaccinated person has a 90% chance of getting the disease.

"Measles "It's not a trivial disease," warns Fauci. When measles raged before vaccines available, it was one of the most devastating diseases in the world and in the United States. Before the introduction of the vaccine in the 1960s, there were a few million cases of measles and 400 to 500 deaths a year, thousands and thousands of hospitalizations and a thousand encephalitis. [inflammation of the brain]. "

At present, 18 states, including Washington and Oregon, allow parents not to vaccinate their children because of moral, personal or other beliefs. The state of Washington has introduced a bill that would no longer allow a personal exemption, but this is just beginning.

According to Fauci, stricter laws regarding vaccine exemptions could help prevent new outbreaks.

"There is a category called philosophical reasons not to be vaccinated and this particular category has been abused," he said. "I am therefore in favor of states or cities adopting regulations requiring a stricter interpretation of exemptions that it is necessary not to vaccinate."