Sunday April 21, 2019

WHO Calls for Better Vaccination Coverage Against Increasing Number of Measles Cases

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe in the January-to-March period. WHO called for better vaccination coverage against measles, which can kill or leave a child disabled for life.

Over recent months, WHO said spikes in the disease have occurred “in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States … as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

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Public health authorities worry about outbreaks in communities where vaccination rates are low, fueled by a growing movement of people who view the MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella as dangerous. VOA

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. “Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”

The agency said the reported number of cases often lags behind the number of actual cases, meaning that the number of documented cases likely does not reflect the actual severity of the measles outbreaks.

For three weeks in a row, U.S. health authorities have added dozens of new reports of measles to its yearly total, now at 555, the biggest figure in five years. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states have now reported measles cases.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

ALSO READ: New York Takes Drastic Steps to Prevent Spread of Measles Outbreak

More than half of the U.S. total — 285 cases — have been reported in New York City. Officials in the country’s largest city last week ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak that has been concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city’s Brooklyn borough.

City health department officials blamed anti-vaccine propagandists for distributing misinformation in the community. (VOA)

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New York Takes Drastic Steps to Prevent Spread of Measles Outbreak

There have been more than 400 measles cases in 19 states just this year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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A woman, right, who identified herself as Ester, passes a group of boys, April 9, 2019, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Ester says that she does not believe that the measles vaccination is safe. VOA

For months, New York City has been fighting a measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community. The mayor finally declared a public health emergency April 9 because measles continue to spread among unvaccinated children. Parents who refuse to vaccinate now face heavy fines.

Brooklyn is a borough in New York City known for its tight-knit, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Women wear long, modest dresses, and the men are recognizable in large-brimmed hats and long black coats.

Vaccine mandatory

About 100,000 Orthodox Jews live in Brooklyn. It’s in this community where measles has been spreading since an unvaccinated child brought the virus back from a visit to Israel last October. The inability to contain the outbreak prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare a public health emergency.

“We have a situation now where children are in danger,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio ordered mandatory vaccinations in the Orthodox neighborhoods. Unvaccinated children will not be allowed to attend school, and their parents may face steep fines.

Their religion does not prohibit immunization, and city health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot says the duration of this outbreak is alarming.

“We’ve worked closely with the community religious leaders and schools to make sure that vulnerable people are kept safe during this outbreak and to challenge the dangerous misinformation that is being spread by a group of anti-vaxxers,” she said.

Schools honor emergency

The ParCare Community Health Network caters to Orthodox families. Gary Schlesinger is its chief executive. He told VOA that the private, religious schools these children attend will honor the terms of the emergency declaration.

“They were very clear that they will unequivocally deny any parent who does not vaccinate their children,” he said.

Schlesinger says about 100 families are solidly against vaccines because they mistakenly believe vaccines cause autism or even death. These are some of the same beliefs people in other, secular communities hold.

Safe vaccine

Dr. Camille Sabella at the Cleveland Clinic says multiple studies involving hundreds of thousands of children prove that the measles vaccine is safe.

“It really is an incredibly safe vaccine. We’ve been using it since the 1960s in this country, and it has an outstanding safety record,” he said.

ALSO READ: Measles Cases Between Jan to March have Exceeded the 2018 Count: US Health Officials

There have been more than 400 measles cases in 19 states just this year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials are concerned because measles outbreaks can also be a sign that children aren’t being vaccinated against other deadly diseases, as well. (VOA)