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Mon, March 18

Editorial: Vaccinations still best odds for children

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ says it is important to make sure you are fully immunized against measles. (Courier, file)

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ says it is important to make sure you are fully immunized against measles. (Courier, file)

The debate ensues — whether children should be vaccinated or not. Decades ago it was without question. If you wanted your child to attend school or just be healthy you took them to get their shots.

That is not always the case today. Take for example Europe, where a record number of people were infected with measles in 2018 and the number of cases was triple from the year before, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While more children there are being vaccinated against measles than ever before, “progress has been uneven between and within countries, leaving increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected, and resulting in a record number of people affected by the virus in 2018,” the United Nations agency said this past week in a news release.

More than 82,000 people in Europe last year contracted the virus, which killed 72 people.

That means even though many more people are getting their shots, when people do not, the virus still spreads – and people can die.

Measles begins with a fever, runny nose, and cough. A rash then starts on the face and upper neck and then spreads down the body. The rash fades in about five days. About one in 10 children with measles develops an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 persons develop pneumonia.

WHO states that the spike in the number of cases came after European nations reached an estimated coverage rate of 90 percent in 2017 for the second dose of the measles vaccine — the highest rate ever. First-dose coverage also rose to 95 percent, which WHO said is the highest since 2013.

However, the picture “for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunization rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe. “While data indicate exceptionally high immunization coverage at (the) regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease. This means that gaps at (the) local level still offer an open door to the virus.”

In the United States, the challenge is similar.

Did you know that measles is so contagious that an unvaccinated person has a 90 percent chance of catching the disease if they are near someone who has it? Seems the virus can survive for as long as two hours in a room where an infected person sneezed.

The Arizona Department of Health Services states that while measles is a highly contagious rash illness caused by the measles virus, it is vaccine preventable.

The best way to prevent measles is by getting two doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, which is very effective in the prevention of measles infection, according to their website. More than 99 percent of individuals who receive two doses of MMR vaccine develop evidence of immunity to measles.

Before the availability of the measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15. And, according to Health Services, each year in the United States before widespread immunization close to 450 people died because of measles; 48,000 were hospitalized; 7,000 suffered seizures; and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness.

Critics think the measles vaccine is a bigger threat than the disease itself. They fear what’s in the vaccine, how it was made, and possible reactions to it.

Measles continues to be reported in Arizona residents, the Department of Health Services states.

Is it good enough that there has been a greater than 99 percent reduction in measles cases since the initiation of widespread vaccination? Not good enough to go without the vaccine.

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