In the wake of an announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that there have been more cases of Measles in the first three months of 2019 than in all of 2018, the American Medical Association (AMA) today issued the following statement urging individuals to check their immunization status and get vaccinated against the measles if not already immune.
"Getting vaccinated not only keeps individuals from becoming ill with the measles but also helps prevent further spread to loved ones, neighbors, co-workers and others in close contact," said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D. "As evident from the measles outbreaks currently impacting communities in several states, when individuals are not immunized as a matter of personal preference or misinformation, they put themselves and others at risk of disease. The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect the health of the public. We are also reminding physicians to talk with their patients about the health risks associated with not being vaccinated and make a strong recommendation for vaccinations, unless medically inadvisable.
"The reductions we have seen in vaccination coverage threaten to erase many years of progress as nearly eliminated and preventable diseases return, resulting in illness, disability and death. To protect our communities' health, it is vital that individuals not be permitted to opt out of immunizations solely as a matter of convenience or misinformation, particularly because of the risk to people who cannot be vaccinated--including children too young to be vaccinated, cancer patients and other immunosuppressed patients. When immunization rates are high, people who cannot be protected directly by vaccines are protected because they are not exposed to the disease. The AMA strongly supports legislation that eliminates non-medical exemptions from immunizations, and we will continue to actively urge policymakers to eliminate non-medical exemptions from immunizations."
Studies have shown that a strong recommendation from a health care professional is a key factor in encouraging vaccination and that parent and patient education provided by physicians is an important factor in influencing higher vaccination rates. Patients should be encouraged to discuss concerns they may have about immunizations, and health care professionals should respectfully discuss the research regarding safety. Health care providers should also explain the health risks associated with not being vaccinated. This is important because patients may not be familiar with the diseases that vaccines prevent.
For more information about the measles, current outbreaks and resources for talking to parents about vaccines, visit the CDC's website.