Measles vaccinations debated

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Representation of the measles outbreak across the United States in early 2015.

Representation of the measles outbreak across the United States in early 2015.

By Megan McDonnell
Entirely East Lansing

Michigan has the fourth highest non-medical exemption rate in the nation, with 5 percent of parents choosing not to immunize their children, according to the Michigan State Medical Society. These high exemption rates give Michigan an increased risk of a potential outbreak of diseases, like the measles.

“Despite all the rhetoric and excitement and concern, we are experiencing record high vaccination rates,” said Mark Largent, author of “Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America.” “However, we are also experiencing record high waiver rates. Never before have as many parents filed for and received a medical, religious or philosophical waiver for their children’s mandated vaccines.”

According to Largent, who is the associate dean for Lyman Briggs College, parents don’t fully vaccinate their children for a variety of reasons. A few of the most popular cited reasons are the doubt of safety, beliefs that contracting the disease is better than being vaccinated and worries about testing of vaccines. However, all vaccines must be approved by the FDA as well as heavily monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration passed a new policy that went into effect Jan. 1 amid the measles epidemic that has quickly spread across the U.S. after an outbreak in Disneyland at the end of 2014. The policy has made it more difficult for Michigan parents to file for vaccination waivers for their children. According to the Michigan State Medical Society, the policy now requires parents to meet with a public health official and become educated on the risk of not vaccinating their children.

“It’s a system that’s been producing results for years,” said James D. Grant and Rose Ramirez, President and President-Elect of the Michigan State Medical Society, in “New Immunization Rules a Great Step Towards a Healthier Michigan.”

Various other politicians have expressed interest in vaccination waivers within their states. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, said on Feb. 10 that “vaccines save lives” at a hearing on the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

A video of the hearing can be viewed here:

In Ingham County, 4.9 percent of their kindergarten students entered the 2013-2014 school year with vaccine waivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan has record high vaccine rates and record high waiver rates, said Largent.

“There’s a third category of children who neither have all their vaccines nor a waiver,” said Largent. “In Michigan, about one in four children are in this category. And it’s shrinking as children are being pushed out of it into either the vaccinated category or the waiver category.”

East Lansing Public School District Superintendent Robyne Thompson said she is unaware of any policies that would cover an outbreak within the school district.

“As always, we encourage people to wash their hands, typical things like that,” said Thompson. “As far as the measles are concerned, I’m not aware of any current policy in place.”

The measles virus is a highly contagious disease transferred by sneezing and coughing, according to the Oakland County Health Division. Anyone can contract the disease who has not had a confirmed case and has not been vaccinated.

Symptoms include:

  • Hard, dry cough.
  • Sneezing or runny nose.
  • Watery or red eyes.
  • A fever of 101° F or higher.
  • A rash that is red, raised and blotchy.
  • Tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of mouth surrounded by redness.

More information about the measles can be found here:

According to CVS there are two doses of the MMR vaccine, which prevents the measles, mumps and rubella. The first dose should be administered within twelve to fifteen months of age, and the second dose from 4-6 years of age. However, CVS pharmacist Kyle Marsh encourages people of all ages to get the vaccine.

“I certainly would encourage someone to get the one booster dose,” said Marsh. “It’s still extremely beneficial.”

The CVS in East Lansing, at 240 M.A.C. Ave., offers a variety of immunizations, including the MMR vaccine.

An appointment for immunizations can be scheduled by calling 517-336-8317.

Pharmacy hours and other locations can be found here:

The case of a severe reaction is extremely rare and it is still advised to receive the vaccine. The most common reaction to the vaccine is mild irritation.

Probability of side effects of the MMR vaccine.

Probability of side effects of the MMR vaccine.

“There would most likely be a reaction around the injection site. It causes a disease similar to what the actual disease might cause,” said Marsh. “It’s just the body reacting to diseases placed inside of the vaccine that it’s being protected against. It can be treated with over-the-counter stuff like cold and flu medicine and hydrocortisone cream for a rash or skin irritation.

“It’s typically benign, and it should go away quickly. Anything more serious, you should obviously go to a hospital.”

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