Melinda Gates Urges Parents To Vaccinate Children As U.S. Measles Outbreak Escalates

Melinda Gates speaks during Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations at PlayStation Theater on February 05, 2019 in New York City.
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In an interview with Becky Quick of CNBC on Wednesday, philanthropist Melinda Gates urged parents to vaccinate their children because doing so “saves lives.”

Quick asked Gates if she was frustrated by the number of communicable diseases, like the measles or mumps, that are making a comeback in the country after they had almost been eradicated.

Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said she was “very frustrated” regarding the revival of preventable diseases — and used her personal experiences with women all around the world to make her point. She explained how women she has spoken to in Africa, for example, have told her that they walked “10 kilometers in the heat” just to have access to vaccines.

“They’ve got a baby on their back and another couple with them. They’re saying, ‘Of course I want it. It’s saving my child’s life.'”

Gates went on to say that some people in the U.S. have forgotten what these diseases can be like, adding that when people do not vaccinate their children, it not only effects their child, but other children — or those individuals of any age who have a weakened immune system.

“That’s not right. You need to vaccinate your children. It saves lives,” she said.

Gates is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and over the years, one of the organization’s primary goals was a focus on children’s health worldwide. That target includes an initiative to deliver vaccines to everyone that needs them. The organization’s goal is to prevent more than 11 million deaths, 3.9 million disabilities, and 264 million illnesses by 2020 through the deployment of vaccines — and support for polio eradication.

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The foundation partners with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the GAVI Alliance to help millions of people receive vaccinations. The organization boasts that more than 100 million children are immunized each year, with that vaccinations helping to stem the growth of many life-threatening diseases — including tuberculosis, polio, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, and hepatitis B. Those vaccines save an estimated 2.5 million lives each year.

Meanwhile, measles is making a comeback in the U.S. CNN reported that the current outbreak is the largest in the country since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. The news agency reported that 681 measles cases have been reported in 22 states so far, in 2019 alone.

Before the measles vaccination became available in the U.S. in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people contracted the disease each year. The lowest number of reported cases was in 2000, with 86 cases being reported that year. The number of reported cases since then has continued to rise.