Health

More than 100 King County schools don’t meet measles vaccination standards

...And we examine how King County compares with Clark County, heart of a measles outbreak.

A measles outbreak in southwestern Washington state appears to have spread to the Seattle area.

A 50-year-old man from south King County was hospitalized last week after developing symptoms. The man had traveled to Vancouver, Washington, where there is an ongoing measles outbreak. He has since recovered.

Public health officials released where the man had been in the days leading up to his hospitalization, as measles can remain in the air for two hours after someone with the infection has been there. He had attended a basketball game at Kentlake High School, a Boeing construction site in Auburn and Valley Medical urgent care in Covington.

[Read: Seattle kids have lower polio vaccination rate than in Rwanda.]

A press release from King County public health says that people who were in the area for two hours after the man left could be at risk, particularly those who have not been vaccinated. The measles vaccine (which is combined with the mumps and rubella vaccine) provides 95 percent protection.

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Twenty-three people have been diagnosed with measles in Clark County, and two more people are believed to have the illness.

How does Clark County compare to King County?

In Clark County, the vaccination rate for measles is 84.5 percent. King County’s vaccination rate is higher, 91 percent.

But Jeffrey Duchin, head of King County public health, warned that’s an average.

"It masks a lot of smaller communities and schools where the vaccination rates are very worrisome,” Duchin said.

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KING COUNTY KINDERGARTNERS:

School City Percent complete for all
  immunizations
Cascade Parent Partnership Program Seattle 45.5%
Bell Elementary Kirkland 50.0%
Seattle Waldorf School Seattle 51.7%
Seattle Amistad School Seattle 52.0%

*Editor's note, 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25: We are currently checking the number for Bright Water School. John Healy, chair of the board at Bright Water School, wrote to say school administrators believe this number is inaccurate, and that different numbers were provided to the state, ones that show that Bright Water has far more students in compliance. We will update when we have the new numbers.


CLARK COUNTY KINDERGARTNERS:

School City Percent complete for all
  immunizations
Home Choice Academy Vancouver 26.1%
Hockinson Heights Elementary Hockinson 41.3%
Ellsworth Elementary School Vancouver 42.6%
Crestline Elementary School Vancouver 46.9%
Mill Plain Elementary School Vancouver 49.4%

Both counties have pockets where large numbers of children are not vaccinated. In Clark County, those areas are in the eastern, more rural part of the county. Two of the exposure points were large Russian churches.

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In Seattle, however, the pockets with low vaccination rates tend to be in the northwest part of town, which is whiter and wealthier than most of the rest of the city.

[Read: Seattle schools with the most unvaccinated students are in wealthier neighborhoods.]

Duchin said that if immunization rates are below 90 percent, "you really should be concerned. That community is vulnerable to a measles outbreak."

At least thirty eight schools in Seattle have a rate of 90 percent or below for measles immunizations. At some schools, most of the kids haven't been vaccinated.

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But it's not too late to change one's mind, Duchin said. He said if someone has been exposed to measles, there’s still a benefit to getting the vaccine.

"In the time that it takes measles to develop you could also develop protection from the vaccination," he said.

He stressed getting vaccinations to protect others who have weak immunity or cannot be vaccinated. Unvaccinated people with compromised immunity, infants, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the virus.

Vaccines have been hotly debated since the American Revolution, when small pox engulfed the Northeast.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was controversial after a British doctor published a paper linking the vaccine to autism. His research was debunked, but its impact was long-lasting, and vaccine rates plummeted worldwide, including in Washington state. After a dip in 2008-2009, vaccine rates are slowly rising.

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