Public Health impact report on vaccines

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Vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise

84 people in Washington and Oregon contracted measles in the first quarter of 2019. In an era when vaccine-preventable diseases seldom occur in the United States, this measles outbreak highlights the Portland metropolitan region’s vulnerability to infectious diseases.

There is a growing trend of delaying vaccinations, or exempting from them entirely, which has contributed to increases in vaccine-preventable outbreaks and mortality in the United States. Lack of access to health care services is also a significant issue.

Despite the drastic gains in vaccination coverage once children enter school, the national and statewide vaccination rates are still far below the recommended community immunity threshold of 95-100% to prevent infectious disease outbreaks and protect vulnerable groups.

Why is vaccination coverage declining?

The reasons for the decline in vaccination coverage are complex and likely driven by a mix of scientific, socioeconomic, sociocultural, and political factors, including:

  • Limited access to health care resources and vaccines
  • Knowledge about non-medical exemptions and opposition to vaccines
  • Lack of trust in vaccine safety, pharmaceutical companies and conventional health care systems
  • Misinformation about vaccines has increased skepticism about vaccine science and health risks.

Call to action

The recent measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon should be a dire warning that we need immediate and coordinated action so we do not experience a resurgence of highly contagious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

For long-term success, strategies need to be targeted to groups with limited access to health care resources and those who are obtaining non-medical exemptions. A vision for the future includes:

  • Improve access and education regarding vaccines
  • Partnerships between Clackamas County Public Health and Community Organizations
  • Increase Parent-to-Parent Education

If you would like to learn more or be involved in the call to action, please email PH-CommunicationsTeam@clackamas.us.

Resources and more information

For more information regarding immunizations, please contact your primary health provider or visit the Clackamas County Public Health immunization webpage.