PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The start of August means a new school year is just around the corner and now is a good time to make sure kids have the supplies — and the vaccines — they need.
Immunizations protect children and their families against dangerous diseases like measles.
More than 70 people fell ill during a measles outbreak in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington earlier this year. Most of those who contracted the disease were unvaccinated children.
All of the patients in the region recovered from the illness but experts say measles can be deadly.
In light of the outbreak, lawmakers in Washington made some changes to statewide vaccine requirements.
“What’s new this year is the legislature passed a bill that basically removed the personal or philosophic exemption for the measles mumps rubella vaccine,” said Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health.
All students in Washington who have a personal or philosophical exemption on file will need to get the MMR vaccine or file a medical or religious exemption at the beginning of the school year.
“The immunization rates in some of our schools are dangerously low,” said Melnick. “I’m hoping, at least for measles, mumps and rubella, the rate goes up.”
The best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated. Dr. Jennifer Vines with the Multnomah County Public Health Department said unvaccinated children not only run the risk of becoming sick themselves — but also exposing their families.
“Vaccines are one of the best ways to keep diseases from spreading in schools and keep kids from bringing home those diseases to their households,” said Vines.
Both of the doctors have advice for those worried about the safety of vaccines. Melnick said social media is not a good place to find reliable, proven immunization information.
“I am very confident in vaccines and their safety record,” said Vines. “For a parent who has questions, definitely see your healthcare provider and take the time to have those questions answered.”