Measles outbreak brings attention to need for vaccine education

Measles is making headlines, as nurses and other frontline care providers battle to care for infected patients and prevent the disease’s spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from January 1 to April 26, 2019, there were 704 individual measles cases confirmed in 22 states. This means the public is in need of vaccine education.

Rising numbers of measles cases are not limited to the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on April 15 that preliminary global data suggests a 300% spike in cases in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

“Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, with the potential to be extremely severe,” according to a WHO news release. “Even in high-income countries, complications result in hospitalization in up to a quarter of cases, and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss. The disease is almost entirely preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. For several years, however, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85%. This is still short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people, in many communities, at risk. Second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67%.”

Measles prevention efforts in full force

To curb the outbreak in this country some lawmakers are working to limit parents’ options for legally opting out of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccinations for their children.

One example is Washington state lawmakers recently voted to remove parents’ ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption from vaccinating their children for measles. Medical and religious exemptions will remain, according to a report on ABC News.

“Washington is among 17 states that allow some type of non-medical vaccine exemption for personal or philosophical beliefs,” the report stated.

Other states are mulling bills aimed at increasing measles’ vaccination rates.

Policymakers in Maine are in the process of voting on a bill that would eliminate all non-medical exemptions for MMR. A similar proposal also is making headway in Oregon, where vaccine opposition is strong.

“A similar proposal is advancing in Oregon, despite strong anti-vaccine sentiments in parts of the state,” according to a recent article posted on The Hill.

New York City officials announced in early April they were requiring some Brooklyn residents to get vaccinated against measles or face up to $1,000 fine amid an outbreak there, according to Time Magazine.

Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine and director of its Vaccine Ethics Project, told Time there’s nothing ethically wrong with requiring vaccination in times of public health danger.

Caplan said one can fine and quarantine people in times of public health danger, but cannot physically force a person to get a shot they don’t want to get. Rather, one can threaten legal, financial or other consequences for noncompliance.

The threat and how nurses can help

Melody Butler, BSN, RN, CIC, …read more

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