According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 93% of American kindergartners were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) with the required two doses. This is the second year in a row that vaccination for these potentially fatal diseases fell below the 95% level needed to prevent the virus from spreading in the community.
This decline is concerning because it puts children at risk for diseases that can cause serious illness, disability, or even death. For instance, more than 250,000 children may be at risk for measles, an acute viral respiratory illness with one of the most infectious pathogens on the planet, because they did not receive the vaccinations required to enroll in school.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the risks associated with declining MMR vaccination rates and what can be done to keep yourself and your family safe.
Why are we seeing a decline in childhood vaccination rates?
There are several potential reasons why vaccine coverage may be declining in the US. One possible explanation is that due to pandemic-related disruptions, people have not been able to access routine healthcare services like they used to. This could lead to parents to miss their children’s vaccination schedule or skipping out on their child’s regular checkups altogether.
Additionally, some parents may have concerns about vaccine safety or efficacy. In fact, even though vaccines are proven to be both safe and effective at preventing diseases, parental opposition to routine childhood immunizations has fueled a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases like the measles outbreaks in Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio, that sickened more than 100 children last year.
The drop in MMR vaccination rates is a serious concern. For context, a case of measles may be considered an outbreak because of the nature of the disease and how it spreads easily. If one person gets measles, he or she can infect about 12 to 18 people.
What are the risks?
The decline in MMR vaccination rates means an increase in the number of unvaccinated individuals who can become infected with dangerous diseases. These illnesses can cause severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis, which can lead to permanent disability or even death.
Unvaccinated individuals also put those around them at risk by increasing the chances of outbreaks occurring in their communities. Furthermore, those who decide not to vaccinate their children may also be putting other children at risk if they attend school or daycare together with unvaccinated individuals where these diseases could easily spread from person to person.
Another risk associated with declining MMR vaccination rates is that unvaccinated individuals can spread disease to those who cannot receive vaccines due to medical reasons or age restrictions.
For instance, infants younger than 12 months are too young to be vaccinated against measles or rubella so they rely on herd immunity—the idea that if a large enough portion of the population is vaccinated then even those who aren’t will be protected from contracting the disease—for protection against these illnesses. If enough people opt out of getting vaccinated then this herd immunity will be compromised, leaving vulnerable individuals at risk of illness.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory virus that can cause serious illness, disability, and even death. It usually starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. Within a few days a red-brown rash will develop which usually starts on the face then spreads to the rest of the body. Complications from measles can include pneumonia, encephalitis, and ear infections.
Measles can spread quickly through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when they cough or sneeze. People who are not vaccinated against measles are at a much higher risk of contracting the disease than those who have been vaccinated. It’s important for those who are unvaccinated to be aware of the risks and to make sure they understand how to protect themselves from contracting measles.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can lead to fever, headache, muscle aches, and swollen salivary glands. It is typically spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person. However, it can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
Complications from mumps can include: encephalitis (brain swelling), meningitis, hearing loss, and inflammation of the testicles or ovaries. Mumps can also cause premature labor and low birth weight in pregnant women. The risk of complications is highest among infants and adults over the age of 20.
People who have received two doses of the MMR vaccine are about nine times less likely to get mumps than unvaccinated people who have the same exposure to mumps.
Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious virus that can cause fever and rash. Most people who get rubella will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, if a pregnant woman contracts it, she may experience serious complications such as miscarriage or birth defects in her baby.
The risks of contracting rubella are especially grave for pregnant women, since the virus can cross the placenta and damage the baby’s organs. Unvaccinated infants who contract rubella may develop serious complications such as deafness, cataracts, or heart defects.
The MMR vaccine is highly effective at preventing rubella and its associated risks. Children who receive two doses of the vaccine are about 97% less likely to contract rubella than unvaccinated individuals.
How does an MMR vaccine work?
Vaccinations are a critical part of keeping our children safe from potentially deadly diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR vaccine works by introducing a weakened form of the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses into the body. This triggers an immune response where the body recognizes these viruses as foreign substances and starts producing antibodies to protect itself in case of future exposure. The antibodies produced remain in the individual’s bloodstream for life, providing lifelong protection against these diseases.
Don’t risk it. Make sure you get your MMR shots today!
Ensure your family’s well-being and safeguard against serious illnesses with Nao Medical urgent care. Our expert medical professionals can administer the necessary immunizations to help protect you, your children, and all those around you from dangerous infectious diseases.