The Dutchess County (NY) Department of Health, in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley, have confirmed a measles case at the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz, NY. The local Departments of Health are recommending that anyone “who has visited this school since September 10th or has had any contact with anyone from this school should immediately make sure that they are up to date with their measles vaccinations. All medical practices and laboratories in the area should be on high alert that there may be a number of other children and families who have been exposed and could be communicable.”
Nirav R. Shah, the New York state health commissioner, has stated that almost half of the students have not received measles immunizations (MMR vaccine). Measles immunization is a requirement in the state, but private schools have the authority to make exceptions. The kindergarten and elementary, which has slightly more than 130 students enrolled, is a private school is located in the New Paltz college community.
According to the New Paltz Times Herald-Record, students and staff who were not vaccinated were excused from class so that the risk of the infection spreading would be reduced. According to Ulster County Health Commissioner Carol Smith, 80 of the private grade school’s 145 students were sent home. Since the weekend, 27 children have been vaccinated and allowed to return to school, Smith said Monday. Health officials in Dutchess and Ulster Counties are recommending that students who have not gotten the vaccination should obtain one.
Also according to the Times Herald-Record, “the likely source of the boy’s infection was linked to a recent trip he took to Europe with his family.” Most measles infections occur when traveling outside of the country.
One Mountain Laurel parent, John Ascione, has two children attending the school; both have been vaccinated. He characterized opposition to vaccination as a result of skepticism (read: pseudoskepticism) by some parents of children attending an alternative-minded school to what he called the “corporate influence” in such institutions as the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is just so contagious, that one unvaccinated child with the infection can pass that to nearly anyone that lacks immunity to the disease. An infected child can walk into a pediatrician’s office, where there may be infants who are too young for the vaccination, and pass it to them. Measles is not just a simple disease with a few red spots on your skin. It can lead to more serious complications like encephalitis and corneal scarring. In fact, complications are more frequent and severe in older teenagers and young adults (even if healthy), so the need for vaccination has significant benefits even if you’re an adult. Measles is a primarily respiratory infection that can cause a rash and is highly contagious. Ten percent of patients have ear infections and five percent can develop pneumonia. One or two out of every 1,000 children who catch measles will die as a result of the illness.
This highlights one of the fallacies of the argument made sometimes by the anti-vaccination crowd: “my unvaccinated kid won’t hurt your vaccinated kid, so leave me alone.” Well, sometimes, the vaccine denialists are in groups like this school in New Paltz, so one unvaccinated kid could harm a whole group of other unvaccinated kids, causing an epidemic. That has an impact to the local healthcare system, to kids who will be vaccinated but are too young to have the first dose, to immunocompromised individuals, and to those who are in the small group whose vaccines may not have been effective. Yeah, that happens.
Vaccines save lives.