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Measles Outbreak in MN Shows King County is Vulnerable, Too

Guest post by Neil Kaneshiro, MD

Neil has been a pediatrician in Washington State for over two decades, and is currently serving as chair of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington, which works to improve the health of the community by minimizing the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases through the optimal use of immunizations across the lifespan.

Vaccines have made a huge impact in protecting us from preventable diseases. But in some communities, immunization rates have dropped dramatically, creating the opportunity for diseases to return. A current outbreak in Minnesota shows what could happen in Washington.

Hennepin County in Minnesota is in the midst of a large outbreak of measles which is primarily affecting the Somali community there. There are over 60 cases at this point in time and the count is expected to rise because vaccination rates against measles in that community have plummeted from 92% in 2004 to just 42% in 2014. Measles is highly contagious and vaccination rates need to be well over 90% to prevent the spread of this horrible disease. It appears that the community was misinformed about the risks and benefits of measles vaccine by anti-vaccine celebrity Andrew Wakefield* who visited there on several occasions. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence based medicine showing vaccines are safe and effective, pediatricians and family physicians are confronted every day with parents who question vaccine safety and delay, defer or refuse one or more recommended vaccines.

Vaccine advocates are concerned about families who delay or decline vaccination because of outbreaks like the one currently active in Minnesota. With similar pockets of low immunization rates and regular measles exposures, King County is vulnerable to a similar outbreak. Although measles is much more likely to affect those unimmunized by choice, the vaccine is not 100% effective and measles can occur in a small percentage of people who did the right thing and got their vaccine. Also, there are those who are unimmunized because of medical condition or age since the vaccine is not recommended until 1 year of age.

First and foremost, vaccines protect those who receive them. But receiving vaccines in many cases also helps to protect your family, friends and neighbors from disease as well. Talk to your doctor about keeping up to date in child and adult vaccinations (yes, adults need vaccines too). If everyone eligible for vaccines got immunized, we would be a healthier community.

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*For those who don’t know, Andrew Wakefield is the researcher from the United Kingdom who tried to link MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. But his research has been discredited and his medical license revoked. Extensive research has shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Leading autism advocates including Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation have concluded that vaccines do not cause autism

Tags: families   healthy communities   Immunization   King County   Measles   Minnesota   preventable disease   Protect   vaccine   Washington   

From Magic Mountain to Measles – Get Vaccinated to Stay Safe!

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about the outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland, but has spread to Washington and across the country. It feels particularly unfair that an outbreak of a sometimes-fatal disease is linked to Disneyland, a place where families go for a fun and carefree experience. But the irony is that, in a world where parents are opting out of immunizations in high numbers, Disneyland is a Petri dish for cultivating an outbreak. Because kids and their families visit Disneyland from around the country and world, and because symptoms of the disease don’t manifest for many days after exposure (the disease can be spread before symptoms emerge), situations like this are very dangerous.
Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases on earth. It is spread easily and rapidly among individuals who are not protected from the disease. In 2014, and now again in 2015, we have had confirmed cases of measles in Washington State—cases both related to and independent of, the Disneyland cases. This disease is different from most other communicable diseases in that it can be contracted through aerosol transmission, meaning simply by breathing air in a space where a measles-infected person has coughed or sneezed recently. In order to prevent individual cases of measles becoming outbreaks, and eventually epidemics, around 95% of us need to be immunized against the disease—it’s that infectious!
Many of the stories about measles have parodied the ride/song ‘It’s a Small World’, which is an iconic Disneyland experience. Besides being somewhat trite, it’s the perfect reference. The human experience is one that invariably involves exposure to other people, sometimes tens of thousands of people at attractions like Disneyland. We must immunize in high numbers to protect ourselves and our families when visiting such sites, but also to ensure we don’t become disease vectors ourselves, spreading to our loved ones and communities.

Our Immunization Team will always advocate strongly for complete, on-time vaccination to protect health. We also recognize that all parents, even those who don’t immunize, do so out of an interest for the health of their children. As such, we’ll continue to foster dialogue about why immunization should be a community priority, especially featuring the voices of parents who choose to immunize, like those enrolled in our Immunity Community program. Many thanks to those parents who are working hard to ensure that children in Washington are protected from disease!

 

Tags: contagious diseases   Disneyland   healthy children   Immunity Community   immunize   Measles   outbreak   Protect   vaccine   Vax Northwest   Washington state   

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