Measles outbreak breaks out among unvaccinated kindergarten children in Ohio
Amid declining vaccination rates nationwide, a measles outbreak broke out this week among unvaccinated children at a children’s facility in Columbus, Ohio.
The outbreak has sickened at least four children so far, all of whom were unvaccinated and had not traveled, meaning they contracted the highly contagious virus locally, according to Columbus-area health officials. The investigation into the outbreak is ongoing. Health officials inform parents and ask for contacts. The childcare facility is cooperating and is temporarily closed.
WBNS-TV, the Columbus CBS affiliate, reported that one of the four cases was hospitalized in intensive care. Officials also said they expect additional cases to be identified in the coming days.
Reached by email Thursday, a Columbus Public Health representative told Ars that all four cases are now recovering at home.
The representative did not have current or past information on vaccination rates in the area because it is not reported to the city’s health department. Ars requested that information from the state health department, but a spokesman said the information was not readily available. We’ll update this post when they arrive.
But previously released data on statewide and nationwide vaccination rates show a clear decline amid the pandemic. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an analysis that found that vaccination coverage among children in kindergarten reduced by one percentage point between the 2019-2020 school year. and 2020-2021, falling from approximately 95 percent to 94 percent.
In Ohio, the decline was sharper across the state. In the 2019-2020 school year. 92.4 percent children in kindergarten were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). But in the 2020-2021 school year. coverage dropped to 89.6 percent.
Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts told WBNS she has noticed a trend among local parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children. “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from measles is to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is safe and very effective,” Roberts said.
The outbreak, though still small and localized, is raising concerns among public health officials about the impact of anti-vaccination sentiment in the country. While anti-vaccination attitudes had been spreading insidiously for years before the pandemic, they mushroomed into the mainstream amid the deluge of misinformation and politicization of public health that followed COVID-19. While Republican lawmakers have railed against regulations on the COVID-19 vaccine and other health measures intended to reduce transmission and prevent death and disease, efforts have spilled over into routine vaccinations.
In Ohio, for example, Republican representatives introduced sweeping anti-vaccine legislation last year it would essentially override any vaccination requirements in the state, allowing people to refuse vaccines simply by citing “reasons of conscience.” The bill which was supported by the testimony of a doctor who falsely claimed COVID-19 vaccinations cause people to become magnetic, has since stalled on the board. However, this year at least 25 countries were thinking dozens of banknotes abolish childhood vaccination requirements.
It can be prevented
So far, vaccination rates at the national and most state levels are moderate, often below the 95 percent target, but still generally high. However, as it is polio outbreak in New York showed that decent overall vaccination rates can hide pockets of dramatically undervaccinated communities. One area of polio-affected district in New York, for example, has a polio vaccination rate among children under 24 months of age as high as 37 percent. That same county, Rockland, also had explosive measles epidemic in 2019.
Pockets of low vaccination rates could encourage the continued spread of dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, undermining the success of mass vaccination campaigns, one of the greatest triumphs of modern public health. The spread of polio and measles is of particular concern – both are highly contagious and dangerous.
Measles can be spread by coughing, talking or simply being in the same room as a person infected with the virus. Ninety percent of unvaccinated people exposed will become ill, and 1 in 5 will require hospitalization, the Franklin County Ohio Health Department said in a news release (Franklin County includes Columbus).
“Measles is highly contagious and preventable,” Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola said in a statement. “It can be a serious disease, so we strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated to prevent further spread.”