5 Point Plan to Confront Measles in 2019

Measles outbreaks can be reduced with two doses of the MMR vaccine

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As 2018 comes to an end, one deadly infectious disease appears to be unstoppable. The measle virus has returned from near extinction to become a worldwide threat. 

On October 17, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 52,958 measles cases in the European region during 2018. 

This is unfortunate news when compared with 2017 when only 23,757 measles cases were confirmed by the WHO. 

Additionally, Italy declared a ‘measles emergency’ during November 2018. 

The measles outbreak in Europe is bad news for the USA for 2 reasons - international travel and religious exemptions. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a majority of measles cases reported in the USA are associated with an international traveler.

And, these measles-carrying travelers are passing this virus to unvaccinated individuals, such as the recent outbreaks in New York and New Jersey. 

This ongoing outbreak has impacted the Jewish communities, which has a large number of religious-exemption members.   

These are just 2 of the factors that have produced new records for measles cases in the USA.

As of November 3, 2018, the CDC had reached 220 measles cases, which exceeds the 120 cases reported during 2017. 

What can be done to reverse this negative trend in 2019? 

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According to an article published in The Lancet by Heidi Larson MA Ph.D., there is a 5 point plan to address the measles outbreak. 

  • First, financial resources are needed for immunization programs to undertake local research to better understand specific issues and to identify the key influencers and the emerging issues before they become crises 
  • Second, investment is needed for piloting and implementing strategies to find out what works best
  • Third, embrace social media channels in the anti-vaxx discussion
  • Fourth, integrate person-to-person dialogue where someone is available to answer questions in clinic waiting rooms or in community settings can help mitigate anxiety and allow hesitant parents to feel that their concerns are being listened to
  • Finally, more support for anticipating questions and preparing answers in advance can support healthcare workers and officials who are confronted with difficult questions

Although there are some positive initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy, the spread of misinformation is moving quickly and boldly, appealing to emotions and heightening anxieties. 

Building vaccine confidence goes beyond changing an individual's mind.

We need globally and locally connected positive voices and interventions that are vigilant, listening, and have the resources and capacity to respond. 

If the goal of eliminating measles in the USA is to be achieved, MMR vaccinations for children and adults need to increase, says the CDC.

International travelers can easily request a vaccination appointment with a pharmacy at Vax-Before-Travel.  

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information. 

And, measles vaccine discounts can be found here.  

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.  

Dr. Heidi Larson is the Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project and the research group has funding from the EU Innovative Medicine Initiative, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the National Institute for Health Research, GlaxoSmithKline, the European Commission, and the King Baudouin Foundation.