Be sure your child gets those shots!

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000 but remains endemic worldwide. In 2005, a 17-year-old unvaccinated girl who was incubating measles returned from Romania, creating the largest documented outbreak of measles in the United States since 1996. The authors of a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that approximately 500 persons attended a gathering with the young lady one day after her return home. Apparently, 50 lacked evidence of measles immunity, of whom 16 (32 percent) acquired measles at the gathering. During the six weeks after the gathering, a total of 34 cases of measles were confirmed. Of the patients with confirmed measles, 94 percent were unvaccinated, 88 percent were less than 20 years of age, and 9 percent were hospitalized. Of the 28 patients who were 5 to 19 years of age, 71 percent were home-schooled. Vaccine failure occurred in two persons. Although containment measures began after 20 persons were already infectious, measles remained confined mostly to children whose parents had refused to have them vaccinated, primarily out of concern for adverse events from the vaccine.

The authors concluded that the outbreak was caused by the importation of measles into a population of children whose parents had refused to have them vaccinated because of safety concerns about the vaccine. High vaccination levels in the surrounding community and low rates of vaccine failure averted an epidemic. Maintenance of high rates of vaccination coverage, including improved strategies of communication with persons who refuse vaccination, is necessary to prevent future outbreaks and sustain the elimination of measles in the United States.

A number of preschools and schools have a waiver that parents can sign so that they do not have to disclose whether or not their children have received vaccinations. For some parents the bother of locating immunization records is too much and signing the waiver is easier. For other parents religious beliefs or medical concerns are the reason they choose not to vaccinate their young. Many of you may wonder if your baby really needs the usual shots. I believe this study convincingly argues that they do. Any comments?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.