What Do Disneyland, Measles and Abortion Have to Do with Each Other?

It's not getting vaccinated but what's in the vial, say anti-abortion groups.
It's not getting vaccinated but what's in the vial, say anti-abortion groups.
Photo by flickr user VCU CNS

Forget illegals, anti-vaxxers or Jenny McCarthy: A Washington, D.C.-based right-to-life group is blaming abortion for the spread of measles across the country by people who were at the Disney Resort in Anaheim in mid-December.

Specifically, it's the decision by pharmaceutical company Merck to make available an "ethical" vaccine for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) virus. Since 2008, Merck's MMR II live virus vaccine has been in use--and since that time families opposed to abortion have declined MMR II vaccinations because it was "created from aborted fetal cell lines," explains the American Life League.

The American Life League, which bills itself as the "oldest national Catholic pro-life education and advocacy organization in the United States," has been calling on Merck to bring back the "ethical single-dose vaccine" for families who eschew MMR II on moral grounds.

"Merck is denying parents the choice of obtaining an ethical measles vaccine," stated Judie Brown, the president and co-founder of American Life League. "According to Children of God for Life, outbreaks of measles, such as at the California Disney parks, have been on the increase ever since Merck discontinued the ethical single-dose vaccine in 2008."

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Children of God for Life is a Largo, Florida-based campaign to outlaw the use of aborted fetuses in creating vaccinations. It has joined with American Life League to sponsor a change.org petition aimed at getting Merck to revive the single-dose versions of its vaccines.

"Ninety-nine percent of the parents I encounter just want the moral versions of measles and mumps vaccines," claims Debi Vinnedge, president of Children of God for Life. "If Merck were to make the ethical single-dose vaccines available again, vaccine coverage would increase significantly."

The call comes as health officials have confirmed the California-centered measles outbreak has spread to Michigan, with the number of cases pegged at 95 in eight states and Mexico. California has the most with 79 cases, and 52 of those are traced to Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure. Orange County now has 25 confirmed cases.

Los Angeles County's top health officer said Thursday that 15 cases of measles have been confirmed there, with 14 of them linked to the Disneyland outbreak. Hundreds of other people have been exposed to the virus since then, the officer notes. Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health offices, say they are tracking two cases. San Diego County has 13.

Despite the December outbreaks and new cases this month, California state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez says, "I think it is absolutely safe for you to go to Disneyland if you're vaccinated." But he also cautioned taking infants who are too young to be immunized to the theme parks or anywhere else large crowds congregate.

Disney officials say vaccination records or blood test results have been requested from all cast members who could have been in contact with five employees who were diagnosed with measles from the outbreak. Those who can't confirm their immunity status are being asked to go on paid leave until they can, the company adds.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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