Lower Immunization Rates Lead to Measles Outbreaks

Measles Outbreaks

Measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but the contagious disease has been launching a comeback in the past few years. Why? Lower vaccination rates. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Measles vaccination rates fell to the lowest level in over a decade. In 2021, around 40 million eligible children in the U.S. missed a dose of the MMR vaccine. These missed shots are following a worrying trend in lower vaccination rates. During the 2021-22 school year, only 93% of kindergartners completed their MMR series. That was a nearly 1% drop from 2020-21 and about a 2% drop from 2019-20.

According to the CDC, these drops have three leading causes: disruptions during the pandemic, financial and logistical hurdles, and rising vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vaccine movement.

Measles is so contagious that even a small reduction in immunization rates can lead to outbreaks. And because Infected people can easily spread Measles by talking, coughing, or even being in the same room, approximately 90% of unvaccinated people who are exposed will become infected. That level of contagion explains the explosive outbreak in Ohio. 

As of January 7, 2023, the Ohio Measles outbreak increased to 85 cases, 74 of which were unvaccinated, and 34 of the people infected required hospitalization. These figures are an alarming reminder that Measles is more than a rash. About 20% of unvaccinated people who get infected will be hospitalized, and about 30% of children with Measles will die.

One dose of the Measles vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing Measles, and two doses are about 97% effective. It is recommended that the first dose of the MMR vaccine be given between 12 and 15 months of age and the second between 4 and 6 years old.

If you have patients who are vaccine-hesitant, read our blog post for tips on how to address their concerns: How to Address Vaccine Hesitancy With Patients.

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