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Kenny Vigil
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Increase in Vaccine Exemptions

January 29, 2015 - Immunization - Information

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The New Mexico Department of Health is concerned that the number of vaccine exemptions among school-aged children increased again in 2014. An increase in vaccination exemptions can increase the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.

“We know the majority of the people who get measles are unvaccinated,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Since measles is still common in many parts of the world and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the US, we want all New Mexicans to know that it can spread when it reaches communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.”

New Mexico law allows parents to request vaccination exemptions for their children based on medical need or religious beliefs. The exemptions registered with the Immunization Program at the Department of Health are as follows:

  • 2012 – 2,845 exemptions
  • 2013 – 3,195 exemptions
  • 2014 – 3,335 exemptions

An ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland theme park in Orange County, California is highlighting the importance of vaccinations, and drawing attention to the public health risk associated with declining to get immunized. In 2015, there have been 84 measles cases in 14 states. Most of the cases are linked to the park outbreak.

New Mexico has not identified any cases connected to the California outbreak. New Mexico’s most recent case of measles was confirmed in December 2014 in a baby who did not receive the first measles vaccination. It was not determined where or how the baby was exposed. The baby was hospitalized and recovered.

Measles is a very contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is so contagious that if one infected person has it, 9 out of 10 exposed people who are not immune will also become infected. It spreads through the air when infected persons cough and sneeze. It can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person was coughing or sneezing, and on surfaces.

Infected people can spread measles to others who are not protected from 4 days before to 4 days after the measles rash appears. Measles symptoms usually appear about 7 to 14 days after a person is infected with the virus. Measles generally starts with:

  • High Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Red, Watery Eyes

The measles rash usually begins 3 to 5 days after symptoms start. When the rash appears, fever can reach 104° Fahrenheit or higher.

Measles can be a serious illness in all age groups. Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to get measles complications which include ear infections and diarrhea. Severe disease can require hospitalization, lead to complications, and in some cases cause death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Department of Health recommend that all children get two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

Generally, adults born before 1957 are considered immune and do not need vaccine. Adults born in 1957 or later who are not sure of their immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. It is important for international travelers to be protected and there are special recommendations for those persons.

To find out if your vaccinations are up to date, see your healthcare provider. The Department of Health offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized. Find a Public Health Office in your area today!

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Incremento en las Exenciones de Vacunas