Measles Outbreak in Ohio Shows Importance of Routine Immunizations
Dec 21, 2022

A measles outbreak in central Ohio has sickened 81 kids so far this year, and 29 children have been hospitalized, according to the Columbus Public Health department. Many of these cases are clustered around childcare facilities – all of the children who have gotten sick have not been fully vaccinated against measles.  

Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to them will also become infected if they aren’t vaccinated. 

Getting sick with measles is bad, especially for kids under 5. It can cause fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash that can cover your body. A measles infection can lead to complications, hospitalization, and even death. About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized, and 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 children with measles will die, even with the best care.  

Babies and children are recommended to get two doses of a vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps, and rubella – the MMR vaccine. The vaccine is super effective – one dose is about 93% effective at preventing measles and two doses are about 97% effective. The first dose is recommended between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years old, though it can be given sooner if it is at least 28 days after the first dose.  

When at least 95% of the people in a community are fully vaccinated with two doses of this vaccine, it creates community immunity which is what can eliminate measles entirely. In other words, when more than 95% of a community is vaccinated, we can keep measles out and protect those children and adults who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.  

Maintaining community immunity is easier said than done. According to the Ohio Department of Health, measles vaccination rates have fallen from about 94% in 2010 to 88% in 2017.  More recently, national rates of MMR vaccination have fallen from 95.2% (2019-20 school year) to 93.9% (2020-21 school year) for kindergarteners entering school. We’re seeing what happens when vaccination rates dip even slightly: measles outbreaks among the vulnerable in our communities, like in daycares.  


Have you read:

Nearly 40 million children around the world are dangerously susceptible to a growing measles threat, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) jointly warned us in November 

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Getting immunization programs back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.” 

The outbreak in Ohio this year shows us that measles is not just a problem of the past nor is it a threat only in faraway places – the only thing protecting children in our communities from measles are high vaccination rates. And we cannot take our high vaccination rates for granted – our health depends on all of us getting the recommended vaccines. We can stay well by creating a culture of immunization, where vaccines are a normal part of preventive health and wellness.  

What can you do to keep your loved ones safe?

First, make sure your kids are up to date on their MMR vaccines & other recommended routine vaccinations. Then: talk about why you vaccinate your family with your loved ones. Ask if their kids are up to date. Remind them that a measles vaccination could be the difference between a hospital visit and a healthy baby.  


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