Pa. health officials stress importance of vaccines after measles outbreak
(Harrisburg) — Outbreaks of measles have been confirmed in Washington and New York states.
Now state health officials are urging people in Pennsylvania to make sure they are up-to-date on immunizations.
Measles is a highly contagious disease with cold-like symptoms, but it can cause serious complications.
It’s easily preventable with a vaccine known as MMR, which guards against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said widespread immunization can keep the disease from reaching at-risk populations.
“There are some children who cannot receive some vaccinations because of medical conditions such as cancer or an immune deficiency and that leaves them vulnerable to these potentially very serious childhood illnesses,” Levine said.
The MMR immunization rate among Pennsylvania kindergartners is over 96 percent, above the threshold for so-called herd immunity.
The commonwealth recently took steps aimed at boosting vaccination rates in public schools.
Levine said, before 2017, a child could attend school for nearly the entire year without being up-to-date on their shots.
“We changed the provisional period from the time that those immunizations have to be up-to-date from approximately eight to nine months down to five days,” Levine said.
Pennsylvania does allow exemptions from vaccine requirements for medical, religious, and philosophical reasons. That’s similar to Washington, which allows parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children because of personal beliefs.
Most insurance fully covers childhood vaccinations. Those without insurance can visit a state health center.
Levine said recommended vaccines stretch beyond childhood. Adults should get a tetanus shot every ten years and a flu shot once a year.