MMR vaccine uptake is below safe target for third year in a row – leaving 250,000 kindergarteners at risk of catching measles, CDC report shows

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • MMR vaccine coverage across America was 93.1% during between 2022–23
  • A sixth case of measles has been confirmed at a school in South Florida
  • READ MORE: WHO warns half the world faces high risk of measles outbreaks

MMR vaccine coverage across America is below the safe target for the third year in a row.

Coverage has dropped a further two percent between the 2019-2021 school year to the 2022-2023 school year, according to the CDC, which means that roughly a quarter of a million kindergartens are at risk of measles infection across the US.

The 93.1 percent rate during the 2022–23 school year is lower than the 95 percent rate in the 2019-2020 school year, leaving leaves measles coverage below the national target of 95 percent for the third year running.

It comes as a sixth case of measles has been confirmed at an elementary school in South Florida.

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles

The above shows year-by-year cases of measles in the United States

The above shows year-by-year cases of measles in the United States

Exemptions from school shots was also at a record high, exceeding five percent in ten states.

As of February 15, a total of 20 measles cases were reported by 11 jurisdictions across Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The most recent outbreak in Florida has seen six children test positive for measles so far.

Some 33 out of 1,067 students at the school have not received any of the two doses of the MMR vaccine, Dr Peter Licata, the Broward County Public Schools Superintendent, said Wednesday.

Doctors were first told of a measles case – a third grader with no travel history – on Friday February 16.

Dr John Brownstein, epidemiologist and Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News: ‘The absence of travel history in the measles cases suggests we are likely seeing local transmission, underscoring the serious risk to the community.

‘Measles is highly contagious, and with its long incubation period of 11 to 12 days, there’s a high likelihood that more children are infected without showing symptoms yet. 

‘This situation is alarming and requires immediate public health intervention to prevent further spread.’

Measles is a highly contagious, airborne virus that mostly affects children under five years old. 

It can be prevented by two doses of the MMR vaccine and more than 57 million deaths have been averted since 2000, according to the WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective against measles, the CDC reports. 

One dose is 93 percent effective. 

But measles vaccination rates have been declining, with more young children entering schools unvaccinated.

Millions may have missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic when health systems were overwhelmed and fell behind on routine vaccinations for preventable diseases.

If an unvaccinated child is exposed to measles, an MMR shot should be given as soon as possible.

If given within 72 hours of initial exposure, the shot may offer some protection against measles, or reduce the severity of the illness.

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