'New Amsterdam' Sends a Subtle Message to Anti-Vaxxers

new amsterdam review
NEW AMSTERDAM -- "Good Soldiers" Episode 207 -- Pictured: Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe -- (Photo by: Michele K. Short/NBC)

Blink and you would have missed it, but New Amsterdam sent a very clear message to anti-vaxxers in this week’s episode.

Among the many patients that the doctors dealt with in the episode was a little boy suffering from a mysterious neurological disease.

Eventually, Dr. Kapoor realizes that the 10-year-old is suffering from SSPE, a rare but fatal complication from the measles. He concludes that the boy must have had been exposed to the disease as a baby, prior to his adoption and subsequent vaccination.

SSPE can lay dormant for 7-10 years, making it appear that the patient has fully recovered from the measles. The disorder infiltrates the central nervous system causing seizures, loss of vision, dementia, and eventually death. There is no cure.

The disorder is currently rare in the United States due to the high rate of vaccinations, but all that could change as the anti-vaxxer movement grows. Immunization is the only way to prevent SSPE from killing a child.

new amsterdam sspe measles
Photo: Virginia Sherwood / NBC

With the recent wave of measles in the United States, particularly the huge measles outbreak in Brooklyn, New York over the summer, SSPE is bound to rear its ugly head eventually. As of September, there were 654 confirmed cases of the measles in Brooklyn alone, leading to a new law that prevents unvaccinated children from attending New York public schools.

Unfortunately, New Amsterdam‘s ending gives false hope as Dr. Kapoor and his protege tell the parents about a new but untested treatment that could possibly prevent their child’s death. Although it’s true that there are some experimental treatments that have shown possibilities in extending a patient’s life, there is no long-term cure. Treatments can only slow the progression of the disease.

New Amsterdam‘s episode serves as a reminder that there will be long-term consequences that our country will have to face from the anti-vaxxer movement. At this point, it’s only a matter of time.


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Feature photo: Michele K. Short / NBC

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.