The battle over vaccinations has taken a turn for the worse in New York.
The widening measles outbreak has prompted public health officials to take extraordinary measures to limit the spread of the highly contagious virus.
The city of New York will be making unvaccinated people in high-risk areas in Brooklyn get immunized or they will face fines upwards of $1,000. Schools in Washington have barred hundreds of students from classes and school events due to an outbreak there.
Hospitals in some areas are currently screening kids who have a fever and/or a rash in the nation’s second-worst outbreak since the supposed elimination of measles in 2000.
But what about people who can’t – or shouldn’t – get vaccinated?
Of course, with any battle involving health, public trust must be taken into consideration. Parents vaccinate their children in order to protect them from preventable diseases. This also helps those who can’t get vaccinated due to age or other health issues like cancer.
Widespread vaccination creates herd immunity that protects both the healthy and the vulnerable who are unable to protect themselves – perhaps a “more morally compelling reason” to vaccinate, said David Kimberlin to USA Today. Kimberlin is the Co-Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“Measles will not only seek out those who have refused vaccination, it will seek out those who did get vaccinated but their immune system didn’t take to the vaccine,” Kimberlin said. “And it will find the children who couldn’t get vaccinated because their immune system was simply too weak to be vaccinated in the first place.”
So far this year, there have been a reported 465 cases as of April the 4th. This is on pace to shatter the current record for this century; there were 667 cases back in 2014. That is why public health officials are taking steps to prevent an even more widespread outbreak that could sicken both the healthy and the vulnerable who can’t be vaccinated.
Infants collectively represent “the most susceptible group,” said Frank Belmonte to USA Today. Belmonte is a pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer of Advocate Children’s Hospital near Chicago.
When the first case of measles in Cook County, Illinois, was identified this year, Advocate and NorthShore University HealthSystem searched its electronic medical records systems to identify families of children who have skipped or delayed immunizations. The network will send hundreds of letters to those families next week to encourage them to get vaccinated.
Belmonte said the hospital will try to schedule immunizations for parents as soon as possible.
“We are trying to be proactive, especially (with) those kids who just turned 1,” Belmonte said. “With the confirmed cases in the state, we’re saying ‘Let’s get it now so your child is protected.’ ”
Infants aren’t the only ones that are at risk in a measles outbreak. Those with a weaken immune system due to cancer, HIV, and tuberculosis are not able to get vaccinated. The same is true for those undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or steroid treatments.
The CDC says those who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the measles vaccine or those with a weakened immune condition should not get vaccinated.
Photo from Variety