Expert: The lesson from recent measles case? Vaccinate

WASHINGTON — The recent discovery of a person with measles visiting the D.C. area, as well as an outbreak in California that began late last year, highlight the importance of getting children vaccinated.

That’s the word from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who spoke with WTOP on Thursday.

Dr. Fauci says that the main reason for outbreaks of the disease, once thought eliminated, is that “not everyone who could and should be vaccinated is getting vaccinated.”

By failing to vaccinate yourself or your children, he says, “you leave a gap in the protective umbrella that you have over society.”

He adds that measles is a global disease — about 4,000 people were potentially exposed to measles in Australia recently.

“If the world were measles-free, that would be a different story.”

As it is, however, when people visit the U.S. from other countries, and Americans go abroad, they risk bringing measles back with them.

“Then the vulnerable people who have not been vaccinated wind up getting infected.”

States are beginning to tighten their rules on vaccines, considering such moves as preventing unvaccinated children from going to public schools, and they’re taking other steps to tighten exemptions from vaccination requirements, Fauci says.

Medical reasons not to get vaccinated will always exist, and the vaccine can’t be given to children under a certain age.

“But there are some states that have philosophical reasons, where the parent says, ‘I just don’t want my child to be vaccinated.’ There has been a trend toward tightening up on those kinds of exemptions.”

And the vaccine, Fauci explains, works. Measles doesn’t change because of significant mutations, he explains.

“That’s why the vaccine is so effective — because it can fight measles everywhere. … It is a highly, highly effective vaccine, and measles is a very, very contagious disease.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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