At least 81 children have been infected in a measles outbreak sweeping across central Ohio and all but five of the children were confirmed to be unvaccinated, the latest preventable outbreak amid concerns that childhood vaccinations waned during the pandemic and an emerging, unwarranted skepticism of vaccines grew.
Of the 81 children diagnosed with measles around Columbus, Ohio, since the outbreak began last month, 76 were unvaccinated.
None of the children were fully vaccinated, according to Columbus Public Health, three had been partially vaccinated and received one dose of the two-dose vaccine, while two patients had unknown vaccination statuses.
Some 67% of the patients were between the ages of one and five years old, making them old enough to have received at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, according to Columbus Public Health. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children receive their first dose between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years)
Some 29 children have been hospitalized, though none of the cases have been fatal.
117. That’s how many measles cases have been reported to the CDC in 2022 as of December 22. Just two years earlier, the U.S. recorded only 13 cases, the fewest in recent history.
Health officials have warned that outbreaks of preventable diseases could make a comeback in the U.S. as a result of backsliding vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic, whether it be because of decreased medical access or the politicization of vaccines. The acceleration of the “an anti-vaxxer attitude” amid the pandemic could extend to childhood vaccinations for other diseases and yield “tragic” results, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in September. The U.S. detected its first case of polio in nearly a decade in July in Rockland County, New York, the same area that experienced a measles outbreak in 2018.
A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this month found that more than a third of parents with minor children believe guardians with kids in public schools should be able to opt out of vaccinating their children for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella even if their decision could pose health risks for others.
The measles outbreak in Columbus began after a group of children traveled to an area where measles was endemic and returned to the city, where the highly contagious measles virus spread easily among unvaccinated children, according to Columbus Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts. Measles, a virus that causes a skin rash, is easily preventable with a vaccine but is highly contagious without. Studies show 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to measles will be infected with the virus. Measles was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2020 thanks to an effective vaccination campaign, but cases continue to spread in pockets of unvaccinated people, according to the CDC.