Statement by Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP
As the measles outbreak linked to Disneyland continues to spread, pediatricians are deeply concerned about the children who have been infected, and those who are at risk because they have not been vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges parents to make sure their children have received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. While it is best to get the vaccine as soon as your child reaches the recommended age, it is never too late to get your children caught up so they can receive the vaccine and be fully protected.
We know from many repeated studies that the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. It is in fact one of the most effective vaccines we have. And as the measles outbreak has shown, this virus is incredibly contagious. If you have not been immunized against measles and come near an infected person, you have a 90 percent chance of getting measles.
An infected person may not show symptoms for four days — meanwhile he or she can expose dozens of other people they encounter in daily life, at the park, grocery store, school, and other places where children commonly are. Measles affects all organs of the body, and can cause serious and in some cases life-threatening complications in children including pneumonia and encephalitis.
When measles was more common in the U.S., hundreds of children died from this virus every year. The fact that this disease has resurfaced for the first time in more than a decade has prompted pediatricians to reiterate the same recommendation to parents that we’ve made for decades with renewed urgency: Vaccines work. Delaying your child’s vaccines, or refusing the vaccine, leaves your child vulnerable to this invisible threat. And puts other children in the community at risk.
Some children cannot be vaccinated because of problems with their immune system, or because they are too young to be vaccinated. It is heartbreaking to know that these vulnerable children may be at risk if parents refuse or delay getting their children vaccinated, allowing community immunization rates to fall below the rates necessary to protect the whole community. To protect your own child, as well as the other children in your community, make the decision to vaccinate your child. If you have questions about measles or vaccines, we encourage you to talk with your child’s pediatrician.
To help parents, the AAP has also assembled these resources:
- HealthyChildren.org: How to Protect Your Children During a Measles Outbreak
- Healthy Children Radio: Interview with COID member Dr. Kathryn Edwards
- News release: AAP urges parents to vaccinate children to protect against measles
National AAP’s immunization website: http://www2.aap.org/immunization/index.html
- World Health Organization’s Myths & Facts About Immunizations: http://www.who.int/features/qa/84/en/