Vaccination Information

In the U.S., disease outbreaks such as measles (rubeola) have recently been in the news.  What exactly is measles?  How do people get it?  What do public health officials mean when they mention "herd immunity"?

When our grandparents were young, nearly 4 million people in the U.S. were infected with the measles virus each year.  Of these, nearly 500 people died, 48.000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (brain swelling) from complications related to this infection (cdc.gov).  The measles virus is very contagious and can be spread through virus-infected droplets from coughing or sneezing.  Symptoms tend to appear 7 to 14 days after being infected.  In general, these begin with high fever (>103), cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes.  A few days later, tiny spots appear in the mouth followed by a facial rash that spreads.  Recovery time can last a couple of weeks; or longer, if complications develop.  As with any new or worsening symptoms noted with your child, it's important to contact your child's pediatrician for an evaluation, recommended treatments, and guidelines for when a child may safely return to school.  Also, informing the school nurse of any diagnoses for a contagious disease helps other students, families, and staff who may be at risk to remain healthy.

"Herd Immunity" breaks the spread of a viral infection by vaccinating very large numbers of the general population.  Because individuals who are pregnant or who have weakened immune systems (ie, those who have leukemia) generally cannot be vaccinated, vaccinating the "herd" of others (family members, students, those in public places like malls and amusement parks) who are around those at risk will help to protect those who are at risk as well as to prevent large scale outbreaks.  The best thing we parents and guardians can do is to follow the recommended vaccination schedule for all contagious diseases.  For example, the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine contains weakened versions of these viruses which stimulate an individual's own immune system to produce antibodies against them; thus, building up the body's defenses against contagious diseases.

Now is a good time to begin scheduling your child's physical exam for school year 2020 - encouraged for students in all grades; required by the Dept. of Public Health for students entering grades K, 4, 7, & 10.  Please note that certain vaccinations are needed prior to entry to grades K & 7.  Resources on vaccinations as well as current MA DPH school requirements are attached for your review.

https://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/index.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/herd-immunity/

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/school-immunizations