Since the beginning of the year, things have been looking increasingly grim in parts of Oregon and Washington due to a measles outbreak that has affected dozens of people. The disease, which has spread rapidly between individuals who never received their childhood vaccines to prevent it, prompted officials to declare a state of emergency out of fear that it would continue to spread.
As KHN reports, hospitals in the area are dealing with a massive spike in the number of vaccination requests by parents who previously decided against the preventative shots for their children. Officials now report a 500% increase in the number of vaccines being administered when compared to the same time last year.
The area is considered a hot spot of anti-vaccination sentiment, with approximately 1 in 4 kindergarten-age children having not been given all of their childhood vaccines. Unfounded fears of vaccinations being linked to conditions like autism have taken root in many areas of the United States, and the current situation in Washington is a great example of the kind of risk such movements pose.
At present there are at least 50 confirmed cases of measles in the area, with another dozen or so suspected. The vast majority are children and teens. The comparatively high percentage of unvaccinated children in parts of northern Oregon and Washington, combined with the current outbreak, has led local officials to take drastic measures to prevent further outbreaks.
In Multnomah County, Oregon, officials were forced to issue exclusion notifications to parents of unvaccinated kids, letting them know that their children will not be able to attend school if they are not up to date on their childhood immunizations by February 20th.
The measles vaccine, which is cheap and 97% effective at preventing the disease, has never been shown to be linked to any autism or any of a number of other conditions or disorders that the “anti-vaxxer” community has attempted to pin on it. It’s consistently been demonstrated to be safe and effective.