According to the latest large-scale study, low vaccination rates left 9 million U.S. children vulnerable to measles. Immunity to the highly-contagious infection is at risk nationwide if more steps aren’t taken to ensure that everyone understands the importance of the anti-measles vaccine.
The low vaccination rates revealed in the new study and discussed during an expert joint meeting at the IDWeek are due to personal beliefs, outright delaying the measles vaccine or even avoiding it altogether.
Of the approximately 9 million U.S. children currently vulnerable to measles infection, nearly 2 million are newborns or children too young to be vaccinated at all. For this group it is of outmost importance that the rest of the population is properly immunized against the measles infection. According to Doctor Robert Bednarczyk, Ph.D., lead author of the study:\
“We estimate that among about 69 million children in that age range, 8.7 million or 12.5 percent are susceptible to measles infection if they’re exposed to the disease”.
The age range that Bednarczyk and colleagues have under scrutiny is 0 to 17 years old. Within this large age bracket, infants present the highest risk of infection if they’re exposed to measles or a measles outbreak. Currently, the study reveals, nearly 93 percent of 13-year-olds and above have been vaccinated and are now immune. That is great news considering that it is them who have the largest social network in the age group mentioned above.
However, this finding shouldn’t draw attention from the fact that there is also a category of children who are not vaccinated until the age of 5 or 6. Parents play a crucial role here. They believe that the anti-measles vaccine is not necessary until the child enters a social context like school or kindergarten. It is only then that the child receives the immunity vaccine.
Medical guidelines recommend that children are first vaccinated when they reach 12 months or 15 months of age in order to prevent measles infection. However, personal belief plays a role in a family’s choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate the child against measles. There are families that openly declare they don’t believe in vaccines. Others invoke religious reasons.
Whatever the personal belief at play, the results speak for themselves: for children who are under the age of 3, the lack of immunization against measles infection led to a vulnerability rate of 24.7 percent.
According to medical practitioners’ recommendations, it is necessary that the importance of immunization against measles infection is understood nationwide. It’s sufficient for the vaccination rate to drop in one age group for the risk of a measles outbreak to spike.
Currently, low vaccination rates left 9 million U.S. children vulnerable to measles. Yet, in the future, if vaccination rates drop any further, no age group is safe from the infection.
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