Island health boards urge vaccinations to prevent measles


To the Editor:

The largest number of confirmed measles cases in 25 years has been reported this year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1,123 cases of measles, in 28 states, is the largest number since the highly contagious disease was considered eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 as a result of vaccination. The count is nearly double in the total of confirmed cases reported nationally last year. State officials are urging immunization with the MMR vaccine, which includes immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella. In addition, it is advised that you have evidence of immunity to measles.

Given that Martha’s Vineyard is an Island and a very popular tourist destination, it is vulnerable to a potentially severe measles outbreak due to several factors, including its size, the isolation effect of an Island, and the fact that people visit the Island from such a wide range of places where cases have been confirmed. It is also important to note that there are towns on the Island, such as West Tisbury, where an alarmingly high number of children are not immunized, making them particularly vulnerable. The reasons parents choose not to immunize are connected to factors such as parental fear, religious practice, and medical concerns. It is important to note that according to health experts, the virus has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents have declined to give them the MMR vaccine.

The Island boards of health are united in their efforts to prevent and/or lessen the impact of an outbreak by working in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Island Health Care, which is contracted to provide public health nursing services.

In addition to educating people about the need to vaccinate their children, improvements can always be made in coordinating efforts that would be needed in the event of an outbreak, particularly as such an outbreak would affect the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Omar Johnson, health agent
West Tisbury