Vaccination rates were up 500% in January in Washington due to a measles outbreak that has gripped the southwest portion of the state. Individuals that have been hesitant to vaccinate have been requesting two forms of the vaccine in clinics around Clark County. Doctors are thrilled to help improve the vaccination rates in the area, but some are distressed it took an outbreak for people to vaccinate their children.
State health department records indicate that 3,150 vaccines requests in January. In January 2018, the area reported 350 requests for the same vaccine. The spike is directly related to a current measles outbreak that has infected 50 people and has 11 suspected cases.
The reported vaccines came through the federal program ‘Vaccines for Children.’ Through the program, children, who otherwise could not afford them, get free vaccines. The 500% increase does not include children that received vaccines through private insurance or outside of the program.
Patients requesting vaccines have inundated clinics in Clark County. Vancouver Clinic that offers medical and urgent care centers gave 1,444 vaccines to patients. In January 2018, the clinic only administered 263 shots. Staff at the clinics report that they are giving vaccines to children whose parents were previously vaccine-hesitant.
Dr. Alan Melnick the health officer overseeing the Clark County response to the outbreak had mixed feelings about the jump in vaccinations. He told the Seattle Times, “I would rather it not take an outbreak for this to happen.”
In 2017-2018 Clark County reported a 76.5% vaccination rate for all entering kindergarten children. With the rate well below the needed 90% for herd immunity, Clark County was vulnerable to an outbreak occurring.
Officials in Washington have identified the strain of measles circulating the area. The strain is a wild form of the virus that is currently spreading in Eastern Europe. As a result, the outbreak started by someone traveling to Europe and bringing the virus back with them.
Clark County is taking precautions with anyone exposed to the virus. Exposed individuals can receive an MMR or MMR-V within 72 hours of exposure.
Vaccines provided within 72 hours of exposure can help prevent the virus from starting. When individuals receive a vaccine, they may still get the measles. However, people typically have a milder form of the illness.
As Washington tallies up more cases, neighboring Oregon has now reported their first cases. Oregon officials say that four people in the Portland area have tested positive for measles. The health authority believes that three of the people did not expose anyone to the virus.
“These individuals did everything right,” said Jennifer Vines, M.D., Multnomah County deputy health officer. “They stayed away from others while on symptom watch so we have no new public exposures to measles.”
Nearly all of the cases of measles are in children that were not previously vaccinated. There are only two adults that have contracted the virus. Most of the children infected are under the age of ten.
Obviously, the spike in vaccinations is a great victory for the area. But an outbreak should not have prompted the surge in vaccines. Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing measles.
Parents that withhold vaccines from their children falsely believe that vaccines cause autism. More than a dozen studies have proven there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
For the most up to date information on the outbreak, check out the Clark County Measles Website.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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