HEALTH

Even in the Age of Vaccines Measles Outbreaks Can Occur

By Michael Hill
Correspondent

This is measles. A highly contagious disease the U.S. put down decades ago. But, Princeton University-led research looked at an outbreak in 18 schools in 1904 London and using mathematical models and statistical inference to determine the threat is not completely gone today.

The study’s author, Adam Becker said, “And what we found was schools act as potential transmission hotspots and that measles may transfer more quickly in schools than we’ve thought based on the population level estimates. And then what we did is take these schools and these estimates of transmission and we applied it to the contemporary era, so 2016, and we found that basically that maintaining high vaccine rates is very important to prevent transmission.”

There’s a growing movement against vaccinations — parents linking immunization to autism, other side effects and even spreading diseases themselves. So, Sue Collins who co-founded the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice, says to blame the unvaccinated is very unfair.

Primary Care Dr. Thomas Ortiz says he’s counseled parents with concerns.

Dr. Ortiz said, “As we’ve spend a lot of time educating our patients, in terms of the benefits the reasons why getting the vaccines, it’s a completely safe vaccine. There isn’t any reason why anybody should be afraid of it from the point of view of any side effects. And it saves lives.”

But, even in this vaccine era, outbreaks do occur. Dr. Meg Fisher — the former head of the American Academy of Pediatrics New Jersey Chapter — reminds us of one.

She said, “We all remember the measles outbreak from Disney Land where a visitor came to Disney Land and many people were exposed. Subsequently many, many states were involved and there were outbreaks among children who not immunized.”

Dr. Fisher says worldwide a child dies every 20 minutes from measles and about the study’s conclusion, “this is what we’ve known for a long time, and again it’s the reason for us really wanting there to be immunization requirements for school attendance.”

Salem County has the highest rate of immunization in the state, Monmouth the lowest, and the overall state at 95 percent.

What the Princeton University research makes clear is that unvaccinated children put themselves at risk of measles and the greater student population of a measles outbreak a risk it considers unnecessary.