CT Doctor Addresses Concerns About Possible Spread of Measles

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COVID-19 is a major concern, but doctors are also concerned about the possible spread of measles.

The number of children who missed their measles vaccinations worldwide in 2020 was the highest it has been in 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and there are concerns about whether this will lead to a measles outbreak in the future.

NBC Connecticut’s Jane Caffrey spoke with Dr. Saad Omer, the director of the Yale Institute of Global Health.

Q:  Why didn't so many children get that vaccine and why is that so concerning.

DR. SAAD OMER: Well, a lot of children didn't get that vaccine around the world because of the health system disruptions due to the pandemic. And initially, there were families that were concerned about going to a facility.

After that, it was mainly due to the disruption in the immunization system. And, so the reason why we are concerned about this is measles is one of the most infectious viruses we know of, or at least common viruses that we know of. And it not only impacts children. It depresses overall immunity for a lot of these children who get the measles infection.

Q: We don't often hear about measles outbreaks here in Connecticut, but if the rates of unvaccinated children continue, do you think that's something that we'll see more of?

DR. SAAD OMER: Unfortunately, there is a chance for that. So it’s not that we are helpless bystanders. We can do something about it, and we can catch up children who missed this vaccine and vaccine doses.

But the fact is that we are concerned about it. Across the border in New York, we have had pretty substantial outbreaks of measles even in recent years.

And what some of our research has shown is that a lot of these pockets of vulnerability happen in clusters, and so often even if the overall rate of vaccination is high, in a state, in a county, the local clusters are often at risk of providing that tinder that can catch fire.

Q: And you touched on this a bit. But if parents did not take their kids to go get the shot, how can they still do it? And is it ever too late for some children?

DR. SAAD OMER: No, just go get the shot. It's as simple as that.

Q: Thinking about the COVID 19 pandemic, are there any lessons we learned from the past two years that can help us control the spread of measles and if there is a large outbreak?

DR. SAAD OMER: Well, it's, be ready for large-scale disruptions of the immunization effort and make sure that families are eager to get their children vaccinated and keep them up to date. So, plan for it better next time and maybe deploy some unconventional methods to reach families where they are during these massive disruptions in the future.

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