Salt Lake City – The recent outbreak of measles in the United States and places around the world has led to a discussion of immunization in Utah and across America on the surface.
While Utah was not one of the 10 countries affected by the US epidemic, state health officials worried that it was only a matter of time before such an outbreak came to the state.
"I'm surprised we did not have measles-related outbreaks related to what's happening," said Rich Lackin, director of the immunization program at the Department of Health in Utah.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention, 101 cases were reported in 10 countries (most commonly reported in Oregon or Washington) in 2019 as of Thursday. A total of 372 cases were recorded for all 2018.
A larger outbreak in the Philippines in January took more than 70 lives and more than 4,000 were infected, The Guardian reported on Tuesday. Ukrainian health authorities reported that eight people have died of measles in their country since early 2019, according to Associated Press.
In Utah two small epidemics of measles have reached their state in 2011. A total of about 12 cases were reported in northern Utah, according to a CDC report in 2013. The agency says the epidemic highlights the "critical need for proper vaccination."
"The launch of Salt Lake County began when a vaccinated passenger from the United States developed measles on his return to the United States and infected four other unvaccinated individuals," the report said.
The health departments of Utah show that most parents in Utah choose to immunize their children, while an increasing number of parents in recent years have argued that it is too risky.
How many Utah children are not adequately vaccinated for the disease?
In 2017, in Utah, there were 27,539 K-12 students who did not receive the two recommended MMR shots (measles, mumps, rubella), according to the Utah Department of Health. This is about 4.4% of the 629,587 public students enrolled in the same year. Most of the students who are not properly vaccinated are exempt from release.
State health officials are not sure exactly how many current students have not received both shots because they have to screen the reports they receive from all schools in Utah, how many students were adequately vaccinated, had vaccination exceptions, or just had no vaccines.
This means that 95.6% of pupils are considered to be "adequately vaccinated" for the disease, which is higher than the target of the unit for about 95% of pupils across the country.
Moving the envelope … We are still on the strong side of the immunizations, but I think this is a pretty clear example of why you see the outbreaks.
– Rich Lakin, director of the immunization program at the Department of Health in Utah
But Lakin says he has heard from concerned parents that their children's classes or classes may have fewer pockets than the desired threshold for "flock immunity" that can make their children endanger the virus even at a high number of vaccinated children.
For example, the CDC has written 96.4% of children attending a Utah State School have received both MMR vaccines during the outburst in 2011.
"We press the envelope," Lakin said of the current situation. "We are still on the strong side of immunization, but I think this is a pretty bright example of why you see the outbreaks."
The state also reported that 88.7% of children aged 19 to 35 received the first dose of the MMR vaccine, which ranked Utah 45th out of 50 countries in 2017.
The State Health Service reported 2617 out of a total of 48,994 kindergarten pupils (5,3%) and 2,688 out of 52,250 grade 7 pupils (5,5%) had exceptions for two immunization indicators in Utah school systems. A total of 90.9 percent of schoolchildren in public schools in Utah and 92.4 percent of Seven students in Utah are what the state considers to be "adequately immunized".
In Utah, parents may be refused to be immunized by a child for three reasons: medical, religious, and personal, Lakin explained. In its November 2018 report, indicating figures for 2017, the health department reported that personal causes account for 96% of the exemptions for both nurseries and seventh grade, while only medical staff account for 3% .
Officials from the state health department have noticed an increase in parents who have requested exemptions over the past few years. They say this is mainly due to those who oppose vaccines known as the "anti-vaxxer" community.
The founder of "Vaccine Freedom" Utah Kristen Shevrier told KSL in 2018 to launch her group to help Utah's parents know their rights to vaccinate children.
"The goal is not necessarily to reduce vaccinations; the goal is choice, information and choice. So informed consent, she said at the time.
She claims on her website that vaccines are not subject to the same testing standards as those approved by the Federal Medicines Agency (although the CDC states that it is undergoing an approval process) and it is irresponsible to vaccinate children with certain diseases such as allergies , genetic mutations or diseases. In short, anti-vaccination groups say they do not believe vaccines are safe.
Excluding school fees in Utah is not the only indicator that some Utah parents do not prefer vaccines. In addition to the initial MMR vaccines, Utah ranked at the bottom 10 in the United States for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio, H. influenzae type B, and for 4, 5 and 7 vaccines among 19- to 35-month-old babies .
Serial photos are a combination of typical photos recommended by doctors. Utah ranks far higher for the birth of hepatitis B (16th in the US) and the rotavirus vaccine (the 17th overall).
In 2018, the Public Library of Medicine evaluated Salt Lake City and Provo as hot spots for anti-vaccination. Heat map showed Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Pacific Northwest as major western regions for anti-vaccination. The report shows that Utah has an increasing number of non-medical exceptions for vaccines; it was just behind Oregon, Idaho and Wisconsin among the states that reported non-medical exceptions.
State medical officers like Lakin believe there is no coincidence that at the same time there are outbreaks of vaccines. They worry that if the measles virus reaches Utah, it will spread rapidly among those who are not properly vaccinated because of how contagious the disease is.
"The trend is because you no longer see the illnesses, so why do you think it is important to continue receiving vaccination? The reason you do not see the illness is because of the vaccinations, "Lakin said.
So far, Lakin and other government officials have advised parents to vaccinate their children and continue to hope that the outbreak will not reach Utah.