Skip to content

Children's Vaccines Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

U.K. Measles Threat Menaces U.S.

Key to Protection: Keeping U.S. MMR Vaccination Rate High

Could It Happen Here? continued...

Who's at risk? Pockets of unvaccinated children and adults can be found in various parts of the U.S. And some areas are well under the 90% protection threshold, according to 2002 figures:

  • Arizona (excluding Phoenix) has 84.8% MMR coverage.
  • Houston has 84.7% MMR coverage.
  • Montana has 85.3% MMR coverage.
  • Oklahoma has 86.4% MMR coverage.
  • Oregon has 86.6% MMR coverage.
  • Idaho has 86.9% MMR coverage.
  • Other states under 90% MMR coverage: Alaska, California (outside Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Clara), Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

Even the 90% coverage threshold is not ideal.

"With measles it would be nice to get above 95%, but if we are above 90% everywhere -- that's our goal by 2010 -- we'd feel pretty good about that," Cochi says. "Every percentage point reduces the chance that a case of measles will cause a disease cluster. With more importations from the U.K., there will be more small outbreaks. But unless coverage drops substantially we won't have a major epidemic."

Unless, of course, Americans lose faith in MMR safety.

"With this misinformation out there, there is always the chance we might see that happen," Cochi worries. "Right now we have high coverage, so we won't see any kind of epidemic unless our national vaccination rates drop."

Measles Kills and Blinds

Measles is only one part of the MMR vaccine. Mumps and rubella are also serious illnesses. But measles is a lot scarier.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. It's spread by airborne droplets that can linger in the air for hours. A very small dose of measles virus is all it takes for an unprotected person to get ill.

Before the vaccine became available in 1963, everybody got measles. There were as many as 4 million cases per year in the U.S., with 500 deaths. Even a healthy person gets seriously ill. But when a person is poorly nourished, measles can be a disaster. Among the poorer nations of the world, measles is still a major plague.

Today on WebMD

Baby getting vaccinated
Is there a link? Get the facts.
syringes and graph illustration
Get a customized vaccine schedule.
 
baby getting a vaccine
Know the benefits and the risk
nurse holding syringe in front of girl
Should your child have it?
 

What To Know About The HPV Vaccine
Article
24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
Slideshow
 
Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
Article
Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids
Video
 

Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
Video
gloved hand holding syringe
Article
 
infant receiving injection
Tool
pills
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections