State health department encourages measles vaccinations

To the Editor:

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is urging Oklahomans to ensure household members and loved ones are vaccinated against measles.

OSDH is encouraging preventative measures and reminding everyone vaccination is the best way to protect against measles. In 2014, the U.S. saw 644 cases of measles, the most cases since measles was eliminated in 2000. As of Feb. 6, there have been 121 people from 17 states reported to have measles.

“One out of 10 Oklahoma toddlers has not received the first dose of measles vaccine,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Commissioner of Health. “We strongly recommend that parents make sure their children receive the first dose of measles vaccine on time. These toddlers who haven’t received the vaccine are at risk for measles.”

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Toddlers can receive MMR as soon as they reach their first birthday. Oklahoma state law requires measles vaccine for all children attending childcare and school in Oklahoma. Adults born in 1957 or later who have not already been vaccinated should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease which can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children and adults over 20. The disease also can cause serious problems in pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. People with measles can spread the virus up to four days before the onset of the rash until four days after the rash starts. Anyone who suspects they may have measles should contact a healthcare provider immediately.

MMR vaccine is available for no charge for children who do not have insurance, children whose insurance doesn’t cover vaccines, those eligible for SoonerCare and Native American children at local county health departments. Some county health departments also have the MMR vaccine available for children with insurance. It is important to bring an insurance card. Check with a local county health department for more information.

For additional questions about the measles vaccine, contact a healthcare provider or a local county health department.

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