Health officials urge vaccine to prevent measles

Published 5:18 pm Friday, February 13, 2015

Although there have been no cases of measles confirmed in Alabama so far, health officials in Chilton County are encouraging parents to prepare.

“Right now, we are strongly encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated,” Chilton County Health Department clinic supervisor Ludean Hicks said. “I know there are a lot of parents out there who are concerned with the affects of their children getting their vaccines because they believe there is a connection with vaccines and autism. People are apprehensive about them, but there is no connection between autism and vaccines.”

Hicks said because many parents are apprehensive, some of them refuse to vaccinate their children which causes an outbreak like the measles to spread quickly.

“Right now we have no cases in Chilton County, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t come here,” Hicks said. “All those kids who never got the vaccine would most likely get the measles, and we don’t want to see that come to Chilton County.”

In December 2014, a measles outbreak started in Disneyland in California where six Disneyland employees were among more than 100 cases that later spread in the United States.

Since 2000, measles was considered to be eradicated in the United States.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said the measles vaccine is effective in preventing measles.

Studies show one dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is between 93 and 97 percent effective in preventing measles, and when two doses are given, effectiveness ranges from 95 to 99 percent, according to a release from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory diseases caused by a virus and so contagious that any unvaccinated child exposed to it will probably get the disease, the release said.

Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body.

Those infected can transmit the virus for about five days before the typical rash appears. Symptoms occur within one to two weeks after exposure.

Common complications of measles are ear infections and less often pneumonia.

Rarer complications are inflammation of the brain and death, the release said.

Alabama law requires children to be up to date on their vaccinations prior to attending childcare and school, based on the Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP) Schedule. MMR vaccination is recommended for all children, with the first dose given at age 12-15 months, and a second dose at age 4-6 years. Unless they have other evidence of immunity, adults born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Also, two does of MMR vaccine are recommended for healthcare personnel, college students and international travelers.

Hicks said the Chilton County Health Department can vaccinate for children needing the vaccine, but adults would have to visit a private healthcare provider.

“We have vaccines available, and all they have to do is call and make an appointment,” Hicks said.

Clanton Elementary School nurse Cindy Blackmon said school nurses in Chilton County are trying monitor each child’s “blue slip” which shows if a child is up to date with his or her vaccinations.

“We get a lot of flack because we have some parents who really don’t want their children getting vaccines,” Blackmon said. “There are some parents who can get a religious form and be exempt from vaccines for religious reasons, but we are just trying to encourage everyone to make sure their kids are vaccinated.”

Blackmon said she has currently not had any students from Chilton County who have traveled in recent months to make her concerned they could have been exposed to the disease.

“The biggest thing is trying to raise awareness with our parents because if the outbreak spreads to Alabama it could be a very dangerous thing.”

Dr. Karen Landers, pediatrician and medical consultant for the Alabama Department of Public Health Immunization Division said disease control and prevention and investigation is part of the state’s daily public health activities.

“Our charge is to protect the citizens of Alabama,” Landers said in a release. “While we in Alabama currently have a high rate of vaccination, we will see a measles outbreak in this state if children are not vaccinated.”

Landers said parents who fear side effects of vaccinations should know that measles is a serious diseases with life-threatening complications, and concerns about links between vaccines and autism are baseless.

“I can say as a scientist and as a pediatrician that the measles vaccine does not cause autism.”

The 2013-2014 ADPH School Entry Self Survey found more than 92 percent of Alabama’s kindergarten had received the MMR vaccination. Religious exemptions were filed for 447 kindergarten students and 70 others had medical exemptions from vaccinations.

To make an appointment for measles vaccine, call (205) 755-1287.