Avoyelles coroner urges parents to immunize children
Measles is a funny-sounding word that can be deadly serious. Once thought to be a childhood disease of a past generation, measles and rubella -- German measles -- are making a comeback in parts of the U.S.
Avoyelles Parish Coroner Dr. L.J. Mayeux said there have been no cases of measles or rubella in Avoyelles Parish “primarily because the School Board does an excellent job of enforcing the law” concerning immunizations.
Mayeux said Avoyelles’ vaccination rate is “probably in the top 3 to 5 percent in the state.”
APSD Nursing Coordinator Christina Coco said school nurses are vigilant in checking immunization records for all pre-K, kindergarten and 6th grade students to ensure they are up to date.
Parents are notified if a child is missing an immunization or is due to take one.
“To be enrolled in school the student must be up to date on their immunizations unless they have an exemption from a doctor stating they cannot take the immunization for health reasons,” Coco said.
“Any child who enters our school system from another parish or from out-of-state must have an up to date immunization record,” Coco said.
Any child turning 11 during the school year has two weeks to get the immunization due at that age.
As of July 1, the state is also requiring all 16-year-olds to have received the meningococcal vaccination.
“We’re busy,” she added.
Students’ updated immunization records can be viewed immediately since the school nurses have access to the computer system used by the state’s doctors.
Approximately 99 percent of kindergartners are up to date with the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) immunizations, a state report noted.
Measles is nowhere near an epidemic threat in this state or nation, but “there are hot spots in the United States, like Clark County in Washington State where there are outbreaks for some reason,” Mayeux said. “There are other pockets in the country that have had cases.”
Measles is not just the red rash associated with it. It is also a respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness and death.
About 28 percent of children under 5-years-old worldwide who contracted measles between 2001-2013 had to be hospitalized.
To emphasize the potential threat of measles, Mayeux cited a recent outbreak in Africa in which there were 6,000 cases of measles. Of that number, 1,500 had to be hospitalized and 678 died.
Rubella is a mild disease. Only half of those who contract it will have a rash. The rash is over in three to five days.
Rubella is most dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause birth defects to the heart, brain, eyes and ears of a developing fetus.
Mayeux said immunizations do not cause autism, attention deficit disorder, paralysis or any other harmful side effect.
They do protect the child being immunized, as well as any unprotected child or adult they may come into contact with, from contracting a disease that can have tragic results.
“I would like to see legislation that no child be allowed to attend school without being immunized,” Mayeux said. “I also believe that if a parent refuses to have their child immunized and that child infects others who are harmed or die as a result, the parents should be charged with negligent injury of another child.”
Mayeux admits he is passionate on the issue of immunizations. He survived polio as a child. Fortunately, in his case it did not result in paralysis.
“There is a big fear that polio will make a comeback in this country,” Mayeux said.
The once-dread disease of the early 20th Century has almost been eradicated. It is still found in areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where people are suspicious of immunizations or express religious objections to vaccinations.
“With our soldiers being deployed in those areas, and with world travel being more prevalent than in the past, there is the fear that polio will find its way back into the U.S.,” Mayeux said.
The MMR should be given in two doses. The first should be received when the child is between 12 and 15 months old. The shot should be given to infants as young as 6 months if they will be traveling to a foreign country.
The second dose should be given when the child is between 4 and 6 years old.
MMR & AUTISM
The claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism first surfaced in 1998 with an article in The Lancet medical magazine that was later characterized as “perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years” in a 2011 article by Daniel Flaherty.
The Lancet retracted the 1998 article by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in February 2010, a few weeks after the British doctor was found guilty by the U.K.’s General Medical Council of dishonesty and violating ethics protocols.
The regulators found Wakefield had abused his position and brought the medical profession into disrepute.
Wakefield’s report led to a significant decline in vaccinations in the U.K. and Ireland and is also considered to be largely responsible for an increase in measles and mumps that resulted in serious permanent injuries and deaths of many who contracted the diseases because they were not immunized.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is just one of several major research agencies that have studied the alleged link and debunked any connection between vaccinations and autism.