While measles has become a growing concern in parts of the nation, not a single case has been reported in Iowa this year. More than 130 children nationwide are confirmed infected, the highest number in more than a decade. Meghan Harris, an epidemiologist at the Iowa Department of Public Health, says many of those cases involved children whose parents rejected recommended vaccinations.
"The vaccine, we know, works very well, especially when two doses are given," Harris says. "What has happened, though, is when the society as a whole does not maintain a high level of vaccination, which we still do, especially here in Iowa, then that creates opportunities for the disease to break through and cause additional cases than we would expect, which is what has happened this year."
She says the ongoing measles outbreaks in other states shows that those who forgo vaccinations are vulnerable to infection and can pose a significant health risk to their communities.
Harris says: "There’s been a lot of talk in the media and a lot of talk among parents concerned with vaccines. We know that they protect our children and they are absolutely one of the best things that’s ever happened in public health, so we would just continue to emphasize the importance of that."
Don Callaghan, bureau chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s immunization program, says most Iowans are complying and getting their kids the recommended shots, as about three-quarters of all Iowa toddlers are up-to-date.
Callaghan says, "Seventy-six percent is good compared to the nation at 77-percent. Our national goal is to achieve 90-percent coverage level by two years of age. That does include making sure that children get the necessary immunizations."
Worried parents may give more credit to online horror stories than to scientific facts, and there’s concern in the medical community about restoring confidence in the safety of vaccines to avoid new outbreaks of deadly diseases.