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A massive immunisation campaign is expected to begin this week and follow the lead of the US government, which has halted peanut-butter snacks and stopped schools from serving rotisserie chicken until it approves a new swine flu vaccine
Measles cases spike in the US as children’s vaccinations begin
Health officials announced on Friday a jump in measles infections over a year ago, after students at a high school in Washington state were infected during a nationwide immunisation campaign.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that nationally 59 people fell ill during an outbreak that began at Scappoose high school last August.
So far this year, 497 cases of measles have been reported to the CDC – 92 of them last week. Seventy of the cases have been children under the age of five. There were also 176 cases from the first week of the school year in Washington state, of which the majority are children under five.
On Friday, the California Department of Public Health reported that 74 students contracted measles while in school.
All but one of those 74 students who attended at either Scappoose high school during the outbreak have been vaccinated.
The problem is Scappoose school district policies and state law banning vaccines for students with “personal beliefs” and who do not submit updated immunization documentation. The policy does not apply to children whose parents do not have that stance.
Health officials are expected to suspend immunization practices as a widespread immunisation campaign begins in Oregon.
Of the 79 students who got sick, 35 were not vaccinated. The children who got sick fall in several age groups and include infants, teenagers and college students.
Twenty-one of the students, who range in age from five to 19, have been on full-time courses since January while the rest have been in either campus-based or home-school environments.
A recent report found that of about 70,000 healthcare providers in the state not offering immunizations, 66 have chosen to change their practices in the past two years.
Fifteen people who had been vaccinated developed measles while on a church retreat or in a camp.
The college students who caught measles were visiting the state for the new school year and were not eligible for the state’s protected status. Their parents declined the vaccinations, authorities said.
The latest outbreak sparked a debate about a law mandating public schools offer the vaccines.
While doctors and state authorities continue to tell parents to wait for the decision about whether to vaccinate their children until after their child is in school, opinion is divided.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that eight in 10 public school parents in the US have children who have received a mandatory state-approved vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.
Many of the state laws on immunization are backed by medical authorities or have strong support from lawmakers.
But the majority of US parents who decide not to vaccinate their children have a strong personal belief, according to a recent CDC survey. Among the states with the highest rates of those parents, only two offer immunity to their children by allowing children to attend school even if they haven’t been vaccinated.
California, with the second highest rate of exemptions to childhood vaccination laws, is providing immunity to children by requiring they produce a record of vaccination from a doctor.