Don’t wait to get immunized

Vaccines are very much in the news these days, and misinformation abounds. Lake County Public Health wants to make sure our community knows facts about immunizations and details about opportunities available locally.

School Exclusion Day

All students must be up-to-date on the immunizations required by state law before February 20. Those who aren’t will not be allowed to attend school until they have the required vaccinations.

Lake County Public Health has sent letters to the families of all 39 children who need immunizations this month.

“They should be arriving to homes any time,” Public Health Director Judy Clarke said of the letters.

If you receive a letter, call Public Health to schedule an appointment. In Lakeview, the number is (541) 947-6045. In North Lake, call (541) 576-2176 option 1.

Measles

By now, most of you have heard of the measles outbreak in southwest Washington. As of this morning, Clark County Public Health has confirmed 41 cases. It’s investigating 15 more. Oregon has one confirmed case in Multnomah County; possible exposures sites across Portland and its suburbs, including at the airport; and Deschutes County Public Health has confirmed a person contagious with measles visited at least two locations in Bend January 19 and 20.

Immunization is the most effective way to avoid the measles. The vaccine is 97 percent effective. The vaccine has been available since 1963 and has reduced the number of measles cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 99 percent. In Clark County, 37 of the confirmed cases had not been vaccinated. The remaining four people’s immunization status has not yet been confirmed.

Measles is more than just an irritating rash and flu-like symptoms. The disease can be downright dangerous, especially for young children. Complications include pneumonia, irreversible brain damage, loss of hearing, and death. Getting the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine can prevent these complications.

There are reasons not to get the vaccine, including having an allergy to the shot’s ingredients. A popular urban legend linking immunizations to autism has been debunked.

MMR is given over two doses. The first typically is given between 12 and 15 months, and the second dose happens when a child turns 4. People who have been immunized do not need a booster. People who haven’t had the vaccine can still get it.

“You can never get it too late, only too early,” Clarke said.

HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine isn’t one Oregon requires students to have, but Clarke encourages young adults, teens, and parents of children 10 and older to consider getting this immunization.

When the vaccine was first released, it typically was marketed as a way to protect sexually active young people, especially women, from HPV. This did more harm than good for the vaccine. Many parents rejected the idea that their teenage girls were sexually active, and even some providers didn’t realize the vaccine protects boys and girls.

In reality, the vaccine offers powerful protection against cancer. Of cancers caused by HPV, up to 93 percent could have been prevented by screening and the vaccine.

“This is preventative,” Clarke said.

Children who receive the first dose of vaccine between ages 10 and 12 get the second round six months later, she said. Lake County’s HPV immunization rate is the lowest in the state, but Clarke is hopeful that statistic is beginning to change. She gave 36 HPV shots in 2016, 181 in 2017, and 186 in 2018. Many of last year’s vaccines were the second round of immunization, she said, which means those kids are immunized against HPV-caused cancers.