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Massachusetts doctors urge vaccinations amidst measles outbreaks

State House News Service

Massachusetts doctors are concerned about cases of measles reported in a handful of states and in Europe with potential exposures at two large United States airports, and urged people to get vaccinated amid what a federal official last year called a "staggering" number of measles cases and deaths.

The Massachusetts Medical Society said that many people might not even realize that measles, which is transmitted via exposure to contact with airborne droplets, is highly contagious and can lead to serious and life-threatening complications. A successful vaccination campaign effectively eliminated measles in the United States in 2000, the group said, but the recent trend has been one of years of declines in measles vaccination coverage and a return of cases of measles.

"Children and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. As a community, our best defense against the spread of measles remains ensuring that children receive their measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations following Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines – two doses, one at 12 to 15 months, the next between the ages of 4 and 6," the group said. "The vaccine is safe and highly effective and generally induces lifelong immunity."

Between Dec. 1, 2023 and Jan 23, 2024, the CDC was informed of 23 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S. "including seven direct importations of measles by international travelers and two outbreaks with more than five cases each." Cases have been reported this year alone in Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Ohio.

The CDC and World Health Organization reported last year that measles cases in 2022 were up 18 percent and deaths were up 43 percent globally, compared to 2021. The organizations said the virus poses a "relentlessly increasing threat to children."

"The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years,” John Vertefeuille, director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, said in November. “Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”

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