Measles scare: Seattle schools send home nearly 800 students who did not get MMR vaccine shots
Students will be allowed to attend schools if they provide proof of an upcoming vaccination appointment.
Measles made a comeback last year, sickening 1,282 people in the US, and this year, schools in Seattle, Washington, have decided not to take any chances. To prevent another outbreak in Washington, schools across Seattle turned away nearly 800 students who have not been vaccinated against measles on Wednesday.
However, students will be allowed to attend schools if they furnish proof of an upcoming vaccination appointment, according to reports.
"It's very important for a safe, healthy learning environment for our students, some of whom have compromised immune systems, or they are very delicate in their health," Samara Hoag, health services manager at Seattle Public Schools, told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle.
Washington has seen two outbreaks in 2019. The first outbreak began in January through May, and the second outbreak began on May 9. Both these outbreaks and another isolated case contributed to 87 measles cases, the highest the state has seen since 1990. And 53 of them were children aged between one and 10.
"The state is not currently in outbreak status, but measles is still circulating globally and we could still see more cases in Washington," warns the Washington State Department of Health on its website.
This led the Washington state to pass a law last year, stripping parents of a choice they once had: exempting their children from measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. In response, in December, Seattle Public Schools warned thousands of students that they will be excluded from school after Christmas break unless they get their MMR shots.
And this seems to have worked. From a count of around 7,000, the number of unvaccinated children dropped to over 800. Hoag kept a close watch on this: she heard staff members crossing names off the noncompliance list, every few minutes on Wednesday, as families either provided either documentation or scheduled vaccination appointments.
“I’m ecstatic. We have seen the devastation of what happens when measles comes to visit," Hoag told The New York Times.
But Hoag said it was too early to draw conclusions on how effective the new rule is in improving vaccination rates, but she feels positive about it.
“I am much better prepared now to work with the Health Department to give them the data at each school and say, ‘These are the kids who are at risk because they are not vaccinated.’” said Hoag.
MMR vaccine is very safe and effective, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles and one dose is about 93% effective. The vaccine is most effective when at least 95% of people in a region receive two doses, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hence, wide-scale vaccination is crucial to ward off any future attack.