KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — With the measles outbreak in southwest Washington still ongoing, public health officials here in Southern Oregon are trying to circulate accurate information for concerned parents.
On Tuesday, Klamath County Public Health issued a reminder about the statewide "exclusion day" on February 20 — the date that every child in public school must be up to date on immunizations or be excluded from school.
"Immunizations are required by state law for children and students in attendance at public and private schools, preschools, childcare facilities and Head Start programs in Oregon," health officials said. "Nearly every facility that provides care for a child outside the home requires immunizations or a medical or non-medical exemption to stay enrolled."
Meanwhile, addressing concerns that seem to be running wild on social media at present, Klamath County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Wendy Warren offered her own take on the matter in a statement entitled "Reaching the vaccine-hesitant parent during an ongoing outbreak."
Dr. Warren's statement, an FAQ of sorts, may be read in its entirety below:
This morning a colleague shared that there was a social media meme making the rounds about an anti-vaccine mother who wondered how to keep her 3-year-old protected from the current measles outbreak. The premise seems ridiculous, because the obvious answer is to have the child vaccinated.
However, the situation is a reality for many medical professionals and parents. Each family should be well-informed about immunizations and feel comfortable talking about the decision to vaccinate with their primary care provider.
What follows are some questions parents ask and how I would answer. Parents with questions want what is best for their child. These conversations are always an opportunity for building the trusting relationship we all desire in our healthcare journey.
Q. Can it harm my child to get several vaccines at one time? Does my child need all of the vaccines recommended?
A. There’s no proven danger in getting all recommended vaccines today. Any time you delay a vaccine, you leave your baby vulnerable to disease. It’s really best to stay on schedule.
Q. Are these diseases that dangerous? Is it likely that my baby will catch this disease? Will ingredients in vaccines hurt my baby more than possibly getting the disease could?
A. I know you didn’t get all these vaccines when you were a baby. Neither did I. However, we were both at risk of serious diseases like Hib (Haemophilus influenza) and pneumococcal meningitis that can lead to deafness or brain damage. Today, we’re able to protect your baby from 14 serious diseases before his second birthday with vaccines.
Q. Will my child be okay if she has a side effect? I know someone whose baby had a serious reaction – will my baby too?
A. I’ll worry if your child doesn’t get vaccines today, because the diseases can be very dangerous— most, including Hib, whooping cough, and measles, are still infecting children in the U.S. We can look at the Vaccine Information Statements together and talk about how rare serious vaccine side effects are.
Q. Do vaccines cause long-term side effects? Will getting a vaccine permanently hurt my child’s health?
A. We have years of experience with vaccines and no reason to believe that vaccines cause long-term harm. I understand your concern, but I truly believe that the risk of diseases is greater than any risks posed by vaccines. Vaccines will get your baby off to a great start for a long, healthy life.
Q. Are the ingredients in vaccines safe? Aren’t aluminum and mercury dangerous?
A. Each vaccine ingredient plays an important role in either making the vaccine or ensuring that it is safe and effective so it will protect your child. Since 2001 most vaccines in the United States contain no or little mercury.
Q. Parents may ask: I’ve heard some parents say their child’s behavior changed after vaccines; how do you know vaccines don’t cause autism?
A. Many rigorous studies show that there is no link between MMR vaccine or thimerosal and autism. Autism is a challenge for many families and people want answers—including me. But well designed and conducted studies that I can share with you show that MMR vaccine is not a cause of autism.
Today we have a measles outbreak that starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Measles is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing. These symptoms sound like minor inconveniences, but measles can be serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
Common measles complications include ear infections and diarrhea. Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss. Diarrhea is reported in less than one out of 10 people with measles.
Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die. As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
Additionally, measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
These concerns can be alleviated through immunization. Vaccines truly save lives.
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