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Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH, a Kellner Professor and vice chairwoman of Diversity and Inclusion in the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director and founder of the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, writes that misinformation is hindering efforts to combat measles, a highly preventable disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a resurgence of measles cases continues to increase in the USA.
This highly contagious disease is characterized by a fever that increases stepwise and is associated with an elevated body temperature as high as 103-1050F. Besides fever and a rash, other symptoms include onset of cough, runny nose and/or conjunctivitis, “pink eyes.”
The rash typically lasts four to seven days and usually begins at the hairline and involves the face and upper neck. This airborne virus can linger in a room or on a surface for up to two hours after the infected person has left.
Yet a vaccine for the measles virus, MMR, is incredibly safe and has been available since the 1960s.
In fact, it is recommended that children receive their first does of the MMR vaccine between the ages of 12-15 months and a booster at ages 4 through 6.
In addition, studies have consistently demonstrated that there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
There are members of social networks who are hesitant to vaccinate their children. This misunderstanding that MMR vaccine is associated with autism has resulted in a decline of MMR vaccinations in certain communities.
It is time to move beyond the spread of false information about the risks of vaccinations. Parental concerns should be addressed by building trust with the community and identifying effective, culturally appropriate ways to address questions, concerns and misinformation about the MMR vaccine and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
It is imperative that public health officials and other key community leaders disseminate culturally appropriate educational materials and create opportunities for open dialogue about measles vaccine and other known effective vaccines.