A new campaign aimed at protecting young children against measles launched this week. The goal of the campaign, Keep Measles Out, is to get more kindergarteners vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). This effort is a partnership between Denver Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Tri-County Health Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Colorado’s 2018-2019 rate for the MMR vaccine among kindergartners was 87%, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In the Denver Metro region, the rate was 89%. Neither is high enough to protect communities from a measles outbreak. The statewide immunization goal is to reverse the downward trend and increase the percent of kindergartners protected against MMR from 87% to 90% by June 30, 2020, and increase to 95% by June 30, 2023.
“Getting the MMR vaccine according to recommended immunization schedules is the best way to prevent a measles outbreak,” said Dr. John Douglas, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “That’s why we are calling on parents to make sure their kids are vaccinated, so we can keep measles out of our homes, schools and communities.”
Kids need two doses of the MMR vaccine, one at 12-15 months and a second at 4-6 years, to be protected. The second dose is required before kindergarten entry in Colorado.
“The threat of measles doesn’t stop at any of our counties’ borders — this is an issue that affects all of us in the Metro Denver Area,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, Executive Director for Jefferson County Public Health. “The partnership between our three local public health agencies and the state health department shows that as a region, we’re committed to promoting safe and effective vaccines to keep children, their families and the community healthy.”
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases caused by a virus. According to the CDC, just one person who has it can spread it to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune. It spreads through coughs and sneezes for four days before someone develops the characteristic rash. It can result in serious health complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and even cause death. There is no treatment for measles, and the only way to prevent it is to vaccinate.
"If your child gets sick with measles, they might miss out on important kindergarten milestones - reading a book on their own, their first recess, and forming new friendships,” said Judith Shlay, MD, MSPH Associate Director of Denver Public Health. "The measles vaccine is safe and works. Getting your child vaccinated will keep them healthy, keep measles out of our schools, and allow our little ones to learn, thrive and enjoy these precious moments."
The MMR vaccine is available at doctor’s offices and many retail pharmacies. You can also check vaccinefinder.org to find a retail location near you. If you are unsure if your child is up-to-date for MMR or if you need help paying for vaccinations, contact your local public health department. To learn more about measles and where to get vaccinated, visit KeepMeaslesOut.org.