Clark County in the US state of Washington has a measles problem. Since the start of the year, a shocking 50 cases have been counted, a number that is more likely going to rise further before it falls.
This really shouldn’t be all that surprising. In 2017, just 78 percent of kindergartners entering schools in the county had their full run of shots – a full 7 percent below state average. Fingers crossed that’s all set to change.
This time last year, country health clinics put in orders for 530 doses of one of two types of measles vaccine. This year, they’ve order five times the amount, tallying around 3,150 doses.
“During an outbreak is when you see an influx of patients who would otherwise be vaccine-hesitant,” Sea Mar Community Health Center infection control nurse Virginia Ramos told Kaiser Health News (KHN).
“We’re just happy that we’re prepared and that there is vaccine available.”
Clark County has more than its fair share of vaccine hesitant parents, ranging from the merely dubious to fervent opponents.
Reports had surfaced of individuals across the state ‘medicating’ measles with vitamin A, prompting the Washington state department of health to tweet the following:
Vitamin A cannot prevent or cure the measles. For a child with a healthy diet in the US, taking more vitamin A will not have any effect on their measles disease as they already get enough of it. The only way to avoid getting measles is to be vaccinated against it. pic.twitter.com/tYUNKNkGUJ
— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) January 31, 2019
With immunity so low, transmissible diseases have more opportunities to jump from host to host within a community. Ideally, highly contagious pathogens like measles can be controlled when between 90 and 95 percent of the population is vaccinated.
In this instance, 43 of those affected by measles were children who hadn’t received any measles vaccinations. Another had received just one of the two required doses. As for the remaining cases, there’s no word on their vaccination history.
Whether the outbreak will have a long term impact on the county’s vaccination culture is left to be seen.
“I would rather it not take an outbreak for this to happen,” Clark County health officer Alan Melnick said to KHN.
Last year saw dozens of deaths across Europe in measles outbreaks, again thanks to the depressed immunity within communities where anti-vaccination sentiments were high.
We shouldn’t need to be reminded that measles is a deadly virus before we protect our children.
With vaccines on the rise again in Clark County, we can only hope this is the worst we’ll see of this outbreak.