The following was written by Kayla Scrivner, a program manager of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Communicable Disease department:
One of our registered nurses had an interesting conversation about vaccinations this week.
She was in Clark County to help public officials there investigate the measles outbreak and talked to a mom whose kids weren’t vaccinated.
The mom said she was worried about her kids’ safety. She knew the decision not to get them vaccinated carried some risk, but, at the time, she thought it was the safest option. The danger didn’t hit home for her until dozens of her neighbors got sick with measles.
Our nurse was struck by the irony. The mom loves her kids and had been trying to keep them healthy. Now she was afraid they might get sick because of the choice she made when they were babies!
Some people fall into a category we call “vaccine hesitant,” which means they haven’t completely made up their minds about vaccines. Perhaps they chose not to immunize their families, but now they might wonder if they made the right decision.
If you’re on the fence about vaccination, here are five things to consider:
YOU CAN PROTECT BABIES
Newborns can’t get their first dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine until after their first birthday. That means if you or your child gets the measles and are around a baby while contagious, that baby could get extremely sick. Complications are more common in babies and young children, and can include things like diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Babies and others can get sick even if they enter a room hours after a contagious person leaves it. People can spread the disease for several days before any symptoms show up.
YOU CAN PROTECT PEOPLE WHO CAN’T GET VACCINES
Some people can’t get vaccinated because they have compromised immune systems. This can be because of allergies, conditions that make them bruise easily, or weak immune systems. People with weak immune systems often have very severe cases of measles when they do contract it. Even in healthy people, measles can lead to hospitalization and even death.
VACCINES ARE BY FAR THE SAFEST CHOICE
About 90 percent of people who aren’t vaccinated for measles will get it if they are exposed. The vast majority of people who get the MMR vaccine don’t have any problems with it.
MEASLES IS EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS
The measles virus survives in the air and on surfaces for hours after the infected person leaves. You can have measles for several days before you have any symptoms. It’s easy to pass the virus on during that time. There’s no specific treatment once you’re sick.
DISEASES LIKE MEASLES HAVEN’T GONE AWAY
You don’t hear much about people getting sick from vaccine-preventable diseases. But it can and does happen like it did with the outbreak in Southwest Washington. As of Thursday afternoon, Clark County had 41 confirmed measles cases and another 15 suspected cases.
If you’re on the fence, please consider getting your family vaccinated. Immunization is the easiest, safest way to protect yourself, your family and your community against measles. Vaccines are free for kids, and adults without insurance can get them at a low cost.
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