You’ve probably heard reports of measles cases in several parts of the country. In fact, there’s been an increase in measles cases reported in many states around the country, including Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, one of the people who contracted measles while abroad contracted it again while visiting the U.S. , according to ABC News.
My concern is this: We’ve seen this all before with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Recently, we had another concerning increase in vaccine related illnesses. But that’s why I want to first say this is not a vaccine coverage issue; it’s the measles cases and the Measles, Mumps and Rubella is a highly contagious viral disease that can be deadly and it’s never been removed from our children’s vaccines, so we are all playing a role in protecting our children. But parents, there’s a simple solution right now: Push for the opt-out and not opt-in.
In most cases, if children are born to a previously unvaccinated parent, the MMR vaccine will require a separate, one-time, more serious dose of the vaccine that is available only when a child is older than 18 months. With each of the three doses of the vaccine, there is risk of a severe reaction in a small percentage of children. In addition, if one member of a family, who was unvaccinated, is infected with measles, both adults and children are exposed to the infection. Because of this, the risk of measles in those families remains a serious, lifelong problem. That’s what’s so frightening about this. A large number of children have been exposed to this illness recently, while in others they haven’t and neither have anyone else. This is why I say we have to do something.
If you have a high school student, urge him to have one dose of the MMR vaccine. And if you have a high schooler who did not get vaccinated, persuade him to have the other dose now and before the beginning of next school year. You don’t have to do anything for younger children because the state of Arizona does this for them.
Don’t let it be you. Get your children vaccinated and protect the rest of the population too.
Richard Quigley, M.D., is the chief of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona.