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April 25, 2019

Record Measles Numbers Underscore Urgency of Heightened Vaccine Outreach, Access

The announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday that measles cases in the United States have reached numbers unseen since the disease was declared eliminated here in 2000 brings with it the real possibility that measles could again become endemic in this country. The announcement came, sadly, at the start of this year’s World Immunization Week, an annual celebration of one of the most powerful tools modern medicine offers.

The CDC announcement emphasizes that while all current U.S. measles outbreaks stemmed from cases imported here through foreign travel, the spread of the disease in some of the largest and longest lasting outbreaks seen in nearly two decades is the result of insufficient vaccine coverage in communities across America. These gaps, the CDC notes, accompany a 300% increase in the numbers of measles cases globally compared to this time last year.

Measles is a serious, potentially deadly, highly contagious disease that is entirely preventable through vaccination. Vaccine hesitancy as well as inadequate access to essential health services, however, have led to the optimal benefit of this tool going unrealized. Vaccines are essential to protecting public as well as individual health with sufficient community coverage offering “herd immunity” to those who cannot be vaccinated, including infants and immunocompromised individuals. The CDC announcement of 695 cases of measles across 22 states highlights dangerous gaps in both public health education and access.

IDSA urges strong immunization requirements for all CDC-recommended vaccines, with exemptions provided only in cases of medical contraindication. IDSA will continue to highlight the urgent needs, underscored by the now record numbers of measles cases, for increased investments in CDC and state immunization programs and for global health security investments to detect, prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases worldwide.

For more information see Measles Vaccination Myths and Facts from IDSA.

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