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.