With measles in the national spotlight, Meaghan Munn and Libby Page in our Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunizations unit created interactive maps showing the immunization levels at local schools to help King County residents know the extent of vaccination in their own communities.
Measles was considered eliminated in the United States in 2000, but the large number of cases nationally has shown that the virus can find a toehold when people without full protection are exposed. High vaccination rates are crucial to prevent a resurgence of this serious disease.
“It’s possible that we could have a measles outbreak locally, particularly in areas with pockets of people who have not been fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Local Health Officer. “We want to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening. This tool allows parents and guardians to see how well their community would be protected if there was a case of measles at their neighborhood school.”
Searchable maps show immunization rates
King County residents can search maps at www.kingcounty.gov/school-immunizations to see the number of students at private and public schools who have completed all the required immunizations or shown proof of their immunity. The maps show the most recent immunization data for kindergartners, sixth graders, and K-12 reported by each school to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). One map specifically shows immunization levels for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Children must be immunized against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases before attending a licensed child care or school according to Washington state law. However, parents and guardians can exempt their children from vaccinations for medical or personal reasons by completing an exemption form with a healthcare provider.
“Herd immunity” protects everyone
When a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, it’s difficult for infectious diseases to spread because fewer people can be infected. In the case of measles, even those who are not eligible for vaccination —such as infants, pregnant women, or those with weakened immune systems—get some protection. In general, coverage rates over 90% are thought to be necessary to protect the community most effectively from measles outbreaks through “herd immunity” of the population. Immunization of adults who were not previously vaccinated is also important to achieve herd immunity, although adult measles vaccination coverage is not currently tracked.
Measles vaccination schedule
Children should be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose should be at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at four through six years of age. Infants traveling outside the United States can be vaccinated as early as six months but must receive the full two dose series beginning at 12 months of age; more information is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Adults born in 1957 or later should have at least one dose of measles vaccine, and two doses are recommended for international travelers, healthcare workers, and students in college, trade school, and other schools after high school.
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