Dr. Anthony Fauci: It's a "shame" parents aren't vaccinating children

As the measles outbreak continues to spread across Western states, a leading health official is calling parents out.

"It really is a shame that children are not allowed to get vaccinated by their parents," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday on "CBS This Morning." "That is really too bad."

It's troubling for a number of reasons, he said.

"First of all, the measles vaccine is one of the most highly effective vaccines that we have against any virus or any microbe, and it is safe, number one. Number two, measles is one of the top two most contagious infectious viruses that we know of," Fauci said. "So you have a highly infectious virus and you have an extraordinarily effective vaccine."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine is 97 percent effective.

There are now 75 confirmed cases of the measles in six states, including California, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Among them, 54 cases have been traced back to Disneyland.

Fauci stressed that measles can be a serious disease with complications ranging from something as "relatively trivial" as diarrhea to middle-ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis and even deaths.

The Disneyland-linked outbreak brought the anti-vaccination debate back to the forefront. Some parents fear side effects of vaccines, and one mother told CBS News that her son had a severe reaction after being immunized.

However, the CDC says the MMR vaccine causes very few symptoms, if any, and Fauci said the fears stem from misconceptions that the risk of the vaccine is high.

"In fact, all the scientific data that we've collected over a long period of time from multiple organizations indicate that the measles vaccine is safe and all of these connections to things like autism and things like that are just not true," Fauci said.

The impact of denying vaccinations goes beyond just the child, especially as one person with measles can infect 12 to 18 other people.

"That's not good for your child and that's not good for the community either, so it's really unfortunate that that is going on, that people have that misperception about vaccines," Fauci said.

Researchers have shown that those who choose to opt their children out of vaccines live in geographic clusters. Fauci said "people of the same frame of mind" tend to group together and "reinforce what they know, even though what they're doing is really something that is not based on any scientific evidence at all."

Last year, there were 644 cases of the measles in the U.S., which is the largest number since 2000.