Outbreak a reminder of the importance of vaccination

  Friday, January 30, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

Outbreak a reminder of the importance of vaccination

News of the recent outbreak of measles in California is a reminder of both the effectiveness and importance of vaccination, according to Barb McClaskey, a University Professor in the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing at Pittsburg State University.

“The vaccine is very effective if one gets the two recommended doses,” McClaskey said. “The typical recommendation is the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age, just prior to starting school.”

Public health officials have found that almost all of those infected at Disneyworld this past month had not been vaccinated.

Measles, once a common childhood disease in the U.S., was responsible for a significant number of deaths each year. The incidence of measles infections dropped dramatically beginning in the mid ‘60s, when vaccines were developed and states began requiring school-age children to be vaccinated against the disease. A little over a decade ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared that measles had been essentially eradicated in the U.S.

Each year, small outbreaks of measles are reported in the U.S. McClaskey said those are almost always linked in some way to international travel or exposure to people who have recently traveled outside the U.S. where measles remains common.

McClaskey said although all states require children to have the vaccinations before beginning school, there are exceptions. Typically, states allow exemptions for medical reasons and almost every state allows exemption for religious reasons. Up to 20 states go even further, McClaskey said, allowing parents to refuse the vaccinations on personal or philosophical grounds. In Kansas and Missouri, exemptions are allowed for medical or religious reasons.

McClaskey, whose research has included neonatal care, infant development and chronic illness in children, said some parents in recent years have objected to having their children vaccinated out of concerns about rumored side effects.

“There has been some concern regarding vaccines and autism,” McClaskey said. “The possibility of any connection or potential for increased risk of autism with receiving vaccines has been studied and the research has not found any causal relationship between vaccines and autism.”

And while there is no proven link between autism and the vaccine, there is a clear and sobering link between measles and a long list of complications and even death, McClaskey said.

According to the CDC, measles is so contagious that if one person in a room has it, 90 percent of the people who shared the room with that person will also become infected if they aren’t immune.

The ease with which measles can spread shouldn’t worry area parents too much, McClaskey said, as long as their children are up to date on their immunizations.

“It’s one of the great public health stories of the 20th Century,” McClaskey said. “Vaccines for diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles have saved uncounted lives and prevented disabilities. When there is an incident like the most recent measles outbreak in California, it should serve as a reminder that those diseases still exist in the world and we shouldn’t become complacent about making sure our children are protected.”



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