Measles does come to town occasionally, brought back from overseas. Some people are usually infected, both those unvaccinated and those whose vaccines have failed to protect them for whatever reason, then eventually thanks to most people being protected by vaccines, each line of infection ends with people who don't encounter anyone who could catch it or at least not enough to pass the disease on.
Do you have the actual book? If so, can you check the footnote that Google doesn't show and let me know exactly what study this was? Becasue while I can find countless studies demonstrating the effectiveness of measles vaccines, so far I only have the report of this guy that such a study even exists, and no information as to its size or methodology.
Lovely example. Notice how the trend lines don't pass through the extreme high lows of the data becasue the extreme highs and lows on their own do not represent the trend. I had a minute to spare, so I added a purple line to represent how it would look if Raymond Obomsawin, PhD (the guy who made the measles graph you linked to) did it in the same manner he made his graph of measles. It would look like this:
Except then he would delete the part prior to his start at the highest point so we can't see that that year was quite a bit higher than normal, and remove data points that show the normal up-down repeating cycle so it looks like a smooth decline, and the result would be something like this:
Oh my goodness, global temperature is plummeting and we are all going to freeze!
But that's pretty much what he did - picked the very highest point to start with the picked another point or two on the way to the bottom on the criteria that they matched the story he was trying to tell rather than use any statistical modeling or averages to actually try and represent a real trend in reported measles infections.
It is only obvious when, like Obomsawin, you ignore half the data. The numbers do not start with 800, there is a decade of the original graph before that that he didn't bother to include, and just a couple years before the unusual high of 800 there is a year with only a bit over 100 reported cases/ 100000 population. A line truly representing the data trend prior to vaccination would probably be fairly level, or even possibly sloped slightly upwards given the highs past the year with the 800 are mostly higher than in the decade prior to it (though if that were the case, I would suspect it would probably be the result of better copliance with reporting).
Notice the part I made red. We don't actually have data for 1959 because measle was not reported nationally from 1959 to 1968. I suspec that either reporting stopped partway through the year and the author included the number of cases that had been reported prior to that of the partial year in place of a number for the whole year, or else for some reason put in an end pint that would have it level with where it started again for 1969. Whatever happened, it appears to be an unfortunate problem with the graph. There is another graph for Canada at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/measles-canada.jpg which shows total numbers of cases (so not adjusted for population) and does not show any more drop at the end before the gap than would be expected form the normal up-down cycle. The US graph linked above doesn't have any such dramatic drop.
Even if we did have an actual report of under 100 for 1959, it would not show that measles had suddenly decided to play nice and not make people sick any more. That would only be a bit lower than the other lowest point on the graph, and shorty after that cases swung back up to the highest point.
Further evidence of the effectiveness of measles vaccination is that as vaccination numbers fell in the wake of the autism scare in the UK, measles numbers rose rather dramatically there. And how recent vaccination campaigns in Africa are time and time again followed by a drastic decrease in measles cases and deaths.
I'm curious as to what you think caused measles to go away? I can understand why people who haven't really looked at the numbers might be convinced that it went away over half a century or so as a result of improved sanitation and nutrition and such, but I'm a bit confused as to what great social improvements happened in 1955 or so to cause measles to basically go away in just a few years?
Edited by pers - 3/21/11 at 5:25pm