A decline in childhood MMR vaccinations increases risk of measles outbreaks

December 13, 2021
Glass vaccine vials
By Regence

Online searches for the word “vaccine” increased by more than 600% in 2021, making it Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. And with good reason: Vaccines have been essential in the fight against COVID-19.

But for all the talk of vaccines, childhood vaccination rates have seen a significant decline across many states. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed a nearly 40% reduction in the number of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations administered to 2- to 8-year-olds in Idaho from March to May of 2020 — compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019. Oregon and Washington saw a greater than 60% vaccination reduction among their 2- to 8-year-olds during the same period.

Fewer vaccinations mean many children in our communities are vulnerable to extremely serious diseases like measles.

Why worry about measles?

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses. According to the CDC, 90% of those exposed to someone with measles will get the disease if they are not protected. And about one in five people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized. It spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing and can stay in the air for up to two hours. Anyone who is not protected can become infected just by being in the same room where an infected person once was.

“History has shown us what can happen when we don’t keep up with our routine vaccinations,” says Dr. Heather Jeney, associate medical director at Regence. “After being declared eliminated in the U.S., measles made a comeback in 2019. These types of risky diseases are more likely to spread in communities where the virus is able to spread from one unvaccinated person to the next.” 

What do parents need to do?

If the pandemic has kept you from taking your child in for a routine vaccination like measles, now is a good time to reach out to your doctor to talk through concerns. “Parents should seek credible sources of information when making decisions about vaccines,” says Jeney. “The most reliable and trustworthy source is your child’s pediatrician or your family physician.”

The CDC recommends these ways to check if your child is due for MMR vaccine:

Routine vaccinations are 100% covered under most plans when you go to an in-network provider. Sign in to your account at regence.com to find an in-network provider near you.  

And while you’re getting your child up to date on routine vaccinations, it’s not too late to ensure they receive their flu shot. The 2021–22 flu season is underway, and the flu vaccine is the best way to reduce related illness, doctor’s visits, and missed work and school days. Learn more the importance of flu shots this year.

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