As the school year looms closer it’s time to revisit the subject of immunizations. Also since since there was a measles outbreak in the United States earlier this year resulting in a lot of publicity regarding immunization compliance, I thought it was a good time to talk about this subject in this column.
According to the CDC, from Jan. 1, 2015, to June 26, 2015, 178 people from 24 states in the U.S. were reported to have measles. Almost 70 percent of these cases were connected to a Disneyland visit. Forty people were actual visitors to Disneyland and the rest of the measles cases occurred after people came into contact with the Disneyland visitors.
Getting measles is by no means fun. Symptoms of measles include a high fever (may go up to 104 degrees), cough, runny nose, red watery eyes and a rash that occurs three to five days after initial symptoms of measles. Some complications of measles include; ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and death. The measles outbreak could have been prevented with proper immunization management —receiving the two recommended doses of the MMR vaccination.
California legislators have introduced a bill since the Disneyland measles outbreak which would make it necessary for children to be vaccinated against measles and other diseases before enrolling in a school in California. Exemptions based on medical reasons would still be possible under the new law, but no religious or personal exemptions would be allowed.
Currently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that children be immunized before attending schools unless there is a religious or medical exemption. A medical exemption is obtained from a primary care provider and could be because of a weakened immune system, a severe allergy to a vaccine, or components of a vaccine. Parents need to communicate in writing to the school administration and school nurse that their child will not be getting the required immunizations because of a sincere religious conviction.
Children who do not receive the required immunizations and acquire a communicable vaccination preventable disease will be excluded from school for a specific time period determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If there is an outbreak of a communicable vaccination preventable disease at school and a child is not immunized as recommended, the child will also be excluded from school as determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
For more information requiring Massachusetts school vaccination requirements go online to mass.gov.