The signs are posted everywhere. Parents are stocking up. The corners of pediatricians’ offices are covered with posters and flyers in case parents have questions.
“I’m stressed, but I can’t fight it,” said Elvira Perez, one of several mothers waiting to see a naturopathic practitioner at a pediatric clinic in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood on Saturday.
Ten minutes before the clinic closed, Perez and her 6-year-old daughter attended a community meeting about the requirements for vaccinations for children who are applying for home schooling.
Perez and her daughter both received their children’s shots earlier that day, she said. But just a few feet away, a sign implored other parents to “vaccinate yourself or expose your children to vaccine-preventable disease.”
To help prepare the parents for their call, the clinic offered tips such as masking mouth and nose spray to limit the amount of airborne pathogen contamination and applying a mask to sneezing infants during and after the early morning vaccination.
Perez said she brought her daughter to the clinic so she would have her immunizations ready and she would have some doctor face time to discuss important medical questions with her daughter.
As of Sunday afternoon, there have been 1,056 reported cases of measles this year in California alone, a 130 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the California Department of Public Health.
At the statewide meeting, Perez learned about what she needs to read to ensure that her daughter receives her series of immunizations, including information about vaccine safety and side effects.
“Parents are starting to become educated about their kids health and being safe,” she said.
But in many areas, reports that the measles and rubella vaccine was ineffective were a familiar argument to those who attended the meeting. The Trump administration reversed course on this issue in December 2018.
Dr. Sylvia Gomez of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stressed the importance of vaccinating.
“One in 10 people never get immunized. If that person is small, like my baby, she can only get a 3 percent vaccine response.”
She noted that 95 percent of people who receive a vaccination have a response to that vaccination. “To say that you can’t get vaccinated because of a few that don’t get the vaccine is nonsense.”
There was no word yet from the Trump administration whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the state would conduct an investigation of the local spread of measles.
Tracking Vaccines in the US
As of May 18, the number of measles cases at 659 in the United States is on pace to be the largest outbreak in 25 years, according to the CDC. All the cases have been in California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
More than 95 percent of cases are considered “complete responders,” meaning that a person who receives the vaccine was vaccinated against measles and none of their family members or caregivers were vaccinated.
The measles virus is not to be confused with another highly contagious viral disease, such as the common cold or the flu. Instead, the measles vaccine protects people from the common carriers of measles, the rubeola virus.
The spread of measles to this extent across several states and cities is unusual, according to doctors at the meeting.
“It’s such a tiny percentage of the population that a person can get unvaccinated and go through the whole state of California. No matter how many people are vaccinated, one person can do it,” said Dr. Tamar Levin, a fourth-year pediatric resident at UCLA Medical Center.
Another pediatrician, Dr. Alexander Webber at San Clemente Pediatrics in Orange County, said on Saturday that he had seen instances in which individuals mistakenly believed they had vaccinated their children, so they went ahead and bought measles vaccine and took it to the doctor’s office, where their children were mistakenly excluded from vaccinations for measles or other preventable diseases.
“There is so much misinformation out there, I get calls from parents who want their vaccines done,” Webber said. “But I tell them not to do it until I can show them the science and see it is true.”
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