Is Vermont Prepared For A Measles Outbreak?

May 3, 2019

There are now more than 760 cases of measles across the U.S., in the worst outbreak in decades. Vermont public health officials have been working for years to raise vaccination rates for measles and other communicable diseases. We're talking with doctors and state health officials about Vermont's vaccination statistics and how they're preparing for a potential measles outbreak.

Christine Finley, the immunization program manager with the Vermont Department of Health, and Dr. Rebecca Bell, a pediatric critical care physician at The University of Vermont Medical Center, join Vermont Edition to discuss state vaccination rates, treating vaccine-preventable infections and the questions they hear about vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy.

Finley tells Vermont Edition state health officials "won’t be surprised" if outbreaks make it to Vermont.

Measles needs vaccination rates of more than 93% for so-called "herd immunity" to protect those who are too sick or too young to get vaccinated.

Finley says vaccinations in Vermont for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vary by school.

“When we look at individual schools and school data, we’ll see wide variability among some schools that might have MMR vaccination rates as low as 48%, 40%, and then many that are in 99-to-100%.”

She adds Vermont’s overall K-12 measles inoculation rate is 97%.

About 60 suspected cases have been tracked in Massachusetts, and more than 600 in New York state.

About 80% of new measles cases are in people who have had zero MMR shots.

New York City health officials have taken drastic measures to contain the outbreak, including ordering residents of some Brooklyn neighborhoods to get vaccinated or face a $1,000 fine. 

Listen to the full interview above to hear questions about the long-term health effects of contracting measles and discussions about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated.

Broadcast live on Monday, May 6, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.