Clark County and the US state of Washington have a measles problem. Since the beginning of the year, a shocking 50 cases have been counted, and a number that is more likely to rise further before it falls.
This really should not be all that surprising. In 2017, only 78 percent of kindergartners entering schools in the county had their full run of shots – a full 7 percent below the state average. Fingers crossed that's all set to change.
This time last year, country health clinics put in orders for 530 doses of one of two types of measles vaccine. This year, they've ordered five times the amount, tallying around 3,150 doses.
"During an outbreak, you see an influx of patients who would otherwise be a vaccine-hesitant," said Virginia Ramos, a spokesman for the Sea Mar Community Health Center infection control nurse. Kaiser Health News (KHN).
"We're just happy that we are ready and that there is vaccine available."
Clark County has more than just a fair share of vaccine hesitant parents, ranging from just dubious to fervent opponents.
Reports have surfaced of individuals across the state 'medication' with vitamin A, prompting the Washington State Department of Health to tweet the following:
Vitamin A can not prevent or cure the measles. For a child with a healthy diet in the US, taking more vitamin A will not have any effect on their measles disease as they already get enough of it. The only way to avoid getting measles is to be vaccinated against it. pic.twitter.com/tYUNKNkGUJ
– WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) January 31, 2019
With immunity are low, transmissible diseases have more opportunities to jump from host to host within a community. Ideally, highly contagious pathogens like measles can be controlled when between 90 and 95 percent of the population is vaccinated.
In this instance, 43 of those affected by measles were children who did not receive any measles vaccinations. Another had received just one of the two required doses. As for the remaining cases, there is no word on their vaccination history.
Whether the outbreak will have a long term impact on County's vaccination culture is left to be seen.
Where reaches of raw statistics and textbook thumping fail, the stark suffering of a disease can often persuade many parents of their social responsibility to protect their community.
"I would rather not take an outbreak for this to happen," Clark County health officer Alan Melnick said to KHN.
Clark County stands out, but it's not alone. January saw a total of 79 cases of measles across 10 US states, with New York City also experiencing outbreaks.
Last year saw dozens of deaths across Europe in outbreaks of measles, again thanks to depressed immunity in communities where anti-vaccination sentiments were high.
We should not need to be reminded that measles is a deadly virus before we protect our children.
With vaccines on the rise again in Clark County, we can only hope this is the worst we'll see about this outbreak.