Telluride Med Center: An Appeal to Vaccinate Children

Telluride Med Center: An Appeal to Vaccinate Children

Following very recent news of three children who tested positive for measles in Denver, the Primary Care Team at the Telluride Regional Medical Center is asking parents of children who are not vaccinated to reconsider. 

Dr. Sharon Grundy

“With such low vaccination rates in Colorado, we can’t count on ‘herd immunity,’ to protect us from an outbreak,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy, director of primary care at the medical center.

Colorado’s immunization rate for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination are the lowest in the country, having dropped yet again this year to 87.4%. The World Health Organization recommends a 95 percent vaccination rate (with two doses) to protect a community.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that causes fever, rash, cough, running nose, and inflamed eyes. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 1,000 measles cases across 28 states in the past six months

“That’s more cases than the total over the past 25 years combined,” said Dr. Grundy.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 and for more than a dozen years there were, on average, less than 100 confirmed cases a year. However, prior to 1963, when the vaccination was released to the public, 3 – 4 million cases of measles were reported each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of the population had contracted measles by the age 15.

On December 11, the three children presently being treated with for measles arrived to Colorado and passed through the Denver International Airport, while infectious, after traveling to a country with an ongoing measles outbreak. Colorado health officials have been sounding alarms since.

Dr. Grundy is taking the opportunity to remind the community that measles spreads readily when it reaches groups who are unvaccinated:

“If exposed, and unvaccinated, the infection rate is as high as 90 percent. Children and pregnant women take on the highest risk of complications,” she said.

Those who have received both vaccine doses are protected up to 99 percent and even just the first dose can protect up to 90 percent against infection.

“Basically, if you’ve been immunized, or have had the measles before — essentially anyone born before 1957, you’re protected from contracting or carrying the virus. If you or your child has not been vaccinated, we want to hear from you,” said Dr. Grundy.

The goal, according to Dr. Grundy, is to have enough immunized people in the community to create a barrier to protect the young, sick, and pregnant.

The first dose of the MMR vaccination is recommended at age one; the second dose between ages four and six. The MMR vaccine is considered one of the most beneficial vaccinations released in the last century. Worldwide massive vaccination efforts resulted in a 73 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2018 worldwide.

Children younger than five years and adults older than 20 are more likely to suffer from measles complications. Complications can include ear infections (that can lead to permanent hearing loss), diarrhea, pneumonia, and more rarely, encephalitis.

“We’re lucky, there is a vaccination and it’s highly effective. This isn’t something we have to live with like other generations of Americans did before us,” said Dr. Grundy.

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