In the year 1980 there were 2.6 million deaths from measles in third world countries, primarily Africa and Asia, but by 2013 this number dropped to 146,000! This is likely the result of the vaccine and supplementation with vitamin A. There have been less than 10 deaths from measles in the US over the past several years. Measles is a disease that occurs in the malnourished, especially if levels of vitamin A are very low. The most serious complications include blindness, encelphalitis, dehydration, and pneumonia. In Africa and Asia mortality can be as high as 10%, especially if vitamin A levels are also low.
In industrialized countries, however, measles is a relatively rare disease with a low mortality rate. In this setting the incidence of side effects of the vaccine becomes very important. While the CDC and local health departments are pushing the vaccine because there have been a few hundred cases of measles in the US, there’s not good evidence that in the US the vaccine will prevent an epidemic of measles.