By Anders Kelto, NPR
A highly contagious disease was sweeping across the United States. Thousands of children were sick and some were dying. In the midst of this outbreak, health officials did something that experts say had never been done before and hasn’t been done since. They forced parents to vaccinate their children.
The church ran a school with about a thousand kids. None had been vaccinated.
It sounds like something that would have happened a hundred years ago. But this was 1991 — and the disease was measles.
Dr. Robert Ross was deputy health commissioner of the hardest-hit city, Philadelphia, where the outbreak was centered around the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in the northern part of town.
“This church community did not believe in either immunizations or medical care,” says Ross. Today, he heads The California Endowment, a private health foundation, based in Los Angeles. Continue reading
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
By Liza Gross
The measles outbreak that started in December has sickened 141 people in 17 states. California has the most cases by far: 113 as of last Friday with about half traced to Disneyland.
State health officials are urging anyone who is not immunized against measles to get vaccinated. To help people figure out whether they need to get vaccinated against measles or other diseases, I spoke with Dr. Roger Baxter, who co-directs Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study Center in Oakland.
First up, children. The Centers for Disease Control recommends two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as follows:
- First dose at 12-15 months
- Second dose at 4-6 years
I asked Dr. Baxter, why is a second shot needed? Continue reading
Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday at the Prima Medical Group in Greenbrae. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)
It’s been a big week for 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt.
On Tuesday, he stood on a folding chair at the podium to address his southern Marin school district’s board members and urged them to adopt a resolution in favor of ending the vaccine “personal belief exemption” in California. Television news crews lined one side of the auditorium. Rhett is recovering from cancer, and he’s become the face of the importance of widespread vaccination.
Because Rhett is recovering from years of chemotherapy, he’s been unable to be vaccinated. His immune system wasn’t strong enough.
Until now. Continue reading
Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)
By Jon Hamilton, NPR
The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.
“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.
When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”
That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading
By Lauren M. Whaley, CHCF Center for Health Reporting
Kids without all their vaccinations are falling through the cracks at schools across California.
Over 80 percent of kindergarteners at some Oakland schools entered this year without all of their state-required vaccinations. At some Los Angeles Unified schools, more than 90 percent are under-vaccinated, meaning only 10 percent of kids — or far fewer — are fully up to date on their immunizations.
It seems everyone has been focused on parents who opt-out of vaccinations for their kindergarteners. But, there are thousands of under-vaccinated students who may also be walking school halls for months, maybe even the whole school year, without all their shots. Continue reading
By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis
When parents sign a personal belief exemption (PBE) in California, it allows them to legally send their child to school without being vaccinated.
Find the percentage of kindergarteners who are unvaccinated at your child’s school below. We’ve included data from the last eight school years. This tool includes reports from every kindergarten in the state, public or private, with 10 or more students.
A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Two unvaccinated Marin children have been confirmed to have measles, county health officials announced Thursday night in an advisory sent to all Marin County clinicians.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin Health Officer, told the Marin Independent Journal that the two children were members of the same family and that they had become infected outside the county. The children are of school age, Willis added, but no other unvaccinated children would be barred from attending school.
More from the Independent-Journal:
“These were two children who were out of school well before and throughout any infectious period,” Willis said. “The infectious period for measles is usually around eight days.”
(Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)
By Liza Gross
Although vaccines are among the safest, most effective ways to protect children from major communicable diseases, many parents, for reasons that range from ill-informed to infuriating, still doubt this. As a result, many choose immunization schedules that defy science or refuse to vaccinate altogether.
“These kinds of clusters can be associated with later epidemics.”
If these parents were distributed randomly, their decisions would be less likely to harm others, especially babies too young for vaccination. But as previous studies have shown, parents who use “personal belief exemptions
” to avoid school vaccination requirements often live in the same communities.
Now, in a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers have (perhaps not surprisingly) found the same phenomenon among parents of infants and toddlers. These younger children face the highest risk of dying from whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
The study has come out as the state is grappling with a measles outbreak linked to people who visited Disneyland in mid-December. Continue reading
By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis
Update, Feb. 2, 2015: The state of California has released opt-out rates at schools statewide for the 2014-2015 school year. They have dropped for the first time since 1998. Read the story here.
California law requires that children entering kindergarten be fully vaccinated against a range of diseases. But despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007.
To opt out, parents must file a personal belief exemption, or PBE, a signed statement that vaccines are against their personal beliefs. In the 2007-2008 school year, the statewide PBE rate was 1.56 percent. By 2013-2014, the most recent year statistics are available, the rate had jumped to 3.15 percent.
PBE rates vary by county and by individual school. In the Bay Area, Marin has the highest PBE rate by far — 7.57 percent. (Marin was highest in the Bay Area last year too.) The PBE rate at private schools tends to be higher, overall, then that at public schools. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 85 percent of private school kindergarten students statewide were fully vaccinated when school started, compared to about 90 percent of public school students. Other students enter on “conditional” status, meaning the school is to follow up with these children to make sure they receive all their vaccines.
Napa has the second highest rate of the disease. (Esparrow1/Flickr)
By Lynne Shallcross
It’s been a little over a month since California declared a whooping cough epidemic, and according to the most recent data from the state, three neighboring Bay Area counties have the highest rates of the disease statewide: Sonoma, Napa and Marin.
Sonoma County’s rate of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is almost 120 cases per 100,000 people. Napa County’s rate is 90 per 100,000, and Marin’s rate is 65 per 100,000.
Sonoma County’s interim health officer, Karen Holbrook, says the number of cases reported each week has peaked and is now declining.
“It’s not what the state is experiencing as a whole, but we are coming down,” Holbrook says. “Will that hold indefinitely remains to be seen.”
Holbrook says California is seeing a whooping cough epidemic partly because the disease is cyclical, with cases spiking every three to five years. Continue reading