The ongoing surge in cases of measles illustrates the limits of herd immunity—even when we’re talking about a disease that was declared “eliminated” in the United States in 2000. Some “anti-vaxxers” mistakenly rationalize that they and their children don’t need immunizations against measles and other diseases if the majority of people around them have been vaccinated. The scientifically supported fact is that exposure to vaccine-preventable disease can lead to serious illness (or even death), and that no one can assume they’re around people who won’t infect them. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as various state health departments, should help you counter patients who say they don’t need a measles shot, including a booster. Through July 11, the CDC says 1,123 cases of measles occurred in 28 states (the highest number since 1992). The agency teased out data from New York, one of the states most affected by measles outbreaks, to demonstrate the value of getting immunized for measles specifically. There have been 623 confirmed cases of measles in New York City alone; of those, 73% occurred in people who had no measles vaccination, 8% in people with one dose of the vaccine, and 15% in people whose vaccination status was unknown. Only 4% of cases occurred in individuals who got the recommended two doses of vaccine. In suburban Rockland County, NY the data paint a similar picture: 78% of measles cases were confirmed in people who had no MMR shots, 5% in those with one MMR shot, 13% in those with unknown status, and only 4% in those who got the full complement of recommended shots. This information makes an unmistakable, bold statement: If you follow the recommendations for vaccination against measles, your chance of getting sick and risk for infecting others is dramatically lower than if you don’t. This message is especially relevant for urgent care providers. To learn why, read Unexpected Viral Illness in an Urgent Care Setting: The Re-Emergence of Mumps, Measles, and Varicella in our archive.
Measles Data Provide Ammunition for Immunization Discussions—Use It