Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Parents rarely worry about measles and rubella these days, but the growing ranks of those who skip vaccinations for their children have health officials concerned that the sometimes deadly diseases could stage a comeback.
There are parents who skip at least one shot over fears about vaccine safety and unproven links between vaccinations and autism, worries about overwhelming their baby’s immune system and because it’s relatively easy to opt out in the state, experts say.
Now, the decisions of these parents threaten to create a public health risk. If enough parents forgo vaccinations, measles and other long-contained diseases could return, officials warn.
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Over the past decade, the percentage of children starting school without at least one required vaccination doubled from 2.7 percent to 5.5 percent in King County alone, according to the state Department of Health. That translates into 1,100 of 20,500 students.
“It looks like our community immunity – it’s what people call ‘herd immunity’ – is in fact eroding,” said Dr. Ed Marcuse, associate medical director at Seattle Children’s and a national immunization expert. “I am worried about an outbreak of measles in many counties in Washington state.”
Marcuse is concerned because measles is not a benign disease. Babies, for example, can develop crippling and fatal complications, such as brain inflammation.
Doctors may argue these vaccine-resistant parents are misled by flawed information. But they face a tough debate with parents who simply want to know why their child got sick.
This article was posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm