Clark County, Washington, is facing a measles outbreak and as a result, demand for vaccinations have increased almost fivefold – primarily from anti-vaxxer parents, Kaiser Health News reports.
Take, for example, the county's Vancouver Clinic, which reported administering a grand total of 263 shots in January 2018. Fast forward a year and the same clinic was responsible for 1,444 shots in January 2019.
Meanwhile, orders for the entire county have risen by almost 500 percent, from 530 in January 2018 to 3,150 in January 2019.
The crux of this demand apparently comes from parents who have previously restrained from having their children vaccinated for ethical reasons or due to unfounded rumors linking vaccines to autism. (For the record, there are legitimate medical reasons for abstaining from vaccines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but these are far less common. For example, a life-threatening allergy or an immune system weakened by disease or chemotherapy.)
Officials estimate that just 76.5 percent of Clark County children in kindergarten had all the necessary immunizations for the 2017-18 school year, a figure far below the 90 to 95 percent threshold required to achieve herd immunity. What's more, the number of children in the US who haven't received vaccines for preventable diseases has quadrupled since 2001.
"During an outbreak is when you see an influx of patients who would otherwise be vaccine-hesitant," Virginia Ramos, an infection control nurse at the Sea Mar Community Health Center, told Kaiser Health News.
"We’re just happy that we’re prepared and that there is vaccine available."
State records show there have been 53 cases of measles confirmed in Clark County alone, but more have been suspected at the time of writing. Of these, at least 47 of the patients had not received immunization against the disease. In another instance, the patient had only received the first of the two recommended doses of the MMR vaccine, while immunization status has not yet been verified for the remaining five.
The CDC advises having two doses of the measles (or MMR) vaccine. The first between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years.
"The measles vaccine isn’t perfect, but one dose is 93 percent effective at preventing illness," Dr Alan Melnick, a Clark County health officer and Public Health director, said in a statement.
"The recommended two doses of the measles vaccine provide even greater protection – 97 percent."
Washington is currently one of 17 states in the US that offer non-medical exemptions from vaccinations that are otherwise required for school entry but Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) is hoping to change this fact in light of the recent outbreaks. Last month, he introduced a bill that would remove the personal belief exemptions – at least for the MMR vaccine.
But it's not just Washington State that has witnessed a resurgence in the number of measles cases in recent years. New York City and New York State are experiencing their own outbreaks, while a recent report published by the World Health Organization just last week found that the number of measles cases in Europe is now 15 times higher than it was in 2016.
[H/T: Kaiser Health News]