To vaccinate or not?

First Posted: 2/5/2015

LIMA — April Wright Tschuor had parents who opted out of her MMR vaccine.

Without its protection, she caught the measles when she was 9. Paired with a fever of 105, the measles caused so much nerve damage in her ears that it destroyed her hearing.

“Don’t let this happen to your child,” she wrote on The Lima News’ Facebook wall. “If your attitude is ‘it’s in God’s hands,’ just remember, God also gave man knowledge to beat these diseases.”

In the same conversation thread, Facebook user Darren Abram wasn’t so convinced.

“Measles do not kill you,” he wrote. “The vaccine has killed and disabled people.”

Sparking conversation

People are asking more questions about measles and vaccinations given the recent measles outbreak, said Lisa Horseman, the immunizations action plan coordinator at Allen County’s Department of Health.

“We tend to think a lot of these diseases don’t exist because we don’t see them,” she said. ” However, with the recent outbreaks of measles, we’re seeing a resurgence of people realizing its importance again.”

The debate has been long-standing thanks to a study published in 1998, which claimed some shots caused autism.

Even after the study was discredited and redacted, it’s clear parents are still cautious of vaccines, especially since more than 102 Americans in 14 states have been diagnosed with measles in the past month.

It is preventable, thanks to the MMR vaccine. But there’s no cure for the virus, which is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications. It’s so contagious that 90 percent of people who come in contact who’re not immune will be infected and able to spread the disease four days before and after the rash appears through touch, coughing or sneezing.

Eradicated disease

Before the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that every year:

•Nearly all children got the virus before they were 15

•3 million to 4 million people were infected

•400 to 500 people died

•48,000 were hospitalized

•4,000 suffered from swelling of the brain.

Though the vaccine, which is almost 100 percent effective with little risk, has decreased the number of cases by more than 90 percent in the United States, a recent study published by Trust for America’s Health found fewer than 90 percent of children between 19- and 35-months old have received the vaccination.

With a national average of about 91 percent, Ohio was found to be one of the states with the fewest number of children vaccinated at 86 percent.

The state was home for the largest outbreak of the measles since it was considered eliminated in 2000, with more than 383 of 2014’s 644 cases confirmed in Ohio’s unvaccinated Amish communities. Before then, the United States saw an average of about 60 cases a year.

Still, it’s been such a long time since Northwest Ohio has had a reported measles case that electronic records from Auglaize, Putnam and Allen counties have no trace of the virus. In some areas, the void has lasted more than 20 years.

Moving forward

The CDC contributed the majority of outbreaks to unvaccinated children or travelers, with 91 percent of cases traced back to people who didn’t receive the shot, 89 percent of which were from overseas.

In most cases, the unnvacinated serve as a host for the virus, creating a weak spot in what’s considered “herd immunity.” If those old enough to serve as hosts are vaccinated, the younger and weaker, ineligible for vaccinations, are less likely to contract an illness.

Dr. Alisa Marzec, a family physician in Columbus Grove, also attributes outbreaks to the unvaccinated. However, there are extremely rare instances where people who received the shot still get it.

Auglaize County’s Health Commissioner Oliver Fisher said it should be easier for people to get vaccinations now because its covered with most insurance plans, especially after Obamacare passed.

In terms of misinformation, however, local health departments and doctors continue to convey the facts about the MMR and other vaccinations.

“It’s always a concern. It’s always something to lookout for,” said Sheri Recker, the director of nursing at Putnam County’s Health Department. “It’s always just one case away.”

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