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    Measles re-emerges

    Current epidemic results from complacency, growing anti-vaccine sentiment

    80 percent MMR vaccinationWith an estimated 20 million cases of measles worldwide each year and fewer than 90% of children immunized with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in some states, a 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) presciently concluded that measles cases imported from other countries “can result in large outbreaks, particularly if introduced into areas with pockets of unvaccinated persons…. Maintaining high MMR vaccination coverage is essential to prevent measles outbreaks and sustain measles elimination in the United States.”

    As of mid-February, the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases reported that there had been 141 cases of measles in 17 states and the District of Columbia since the start of 2015. Eighty percent of those were considered to be part of the outbreak that began at Disneyland in Southern California.

    That figure puts the U.S. on track to surpass the 644 cases in 27 states from 2014, itself a record number since the elimination of endemic measles here in 2000. Though the current outbreak’s final course remains to be seen, the country seems to have perhaps snatched defeat from the jaws of victory over measles.

    Regaining lost ground

    Stephan L. Foster, Pharm.D.The current measles outbreak raises the issue of what can be done, by government or by the healthcare community, to boost vaccination rates.

    Historically, the most effective approach has been to mandate vaccinations for school enrollment, notes Stephen L. Foster, Pharm.D., of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The percentage of parents who are hesitant about vaccines is going up, however, and parental fears are “an increasing part of the public health program,” so vaccination efforts likewise need to increase. says Claire Hannan, MPH, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. Hannan adds that such efforts should target the “hesitant” parents, because hardcore anti-vaccination opponents probably can’t be reached.



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