Resolution Passes Requesting Local Citizens Vaccinate Against Childhood Illnesses When Medically Possible

County Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to adopt a resolution proposed by Vice Chair David Izraelevitz requesting the citizens of Los Alamos County to vaccinate against childhood illnesses when medically possible to do so. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos County Public Health Nurse Andrea Cunningham and Dr. Michael Nichols present vaccination data to Council during Tuesday’s meeting. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

STAFF REPORT

Los Alamos County Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to adopt a resolution proposed by Vice Chair David Izraelevitz requesting the citizens of Los Alamos County to vaccinate against childhood illnesses when medically possible to do so.

Los Alamos County Public Health Nurse Andrea Cunningham and Dr. Michael Nichols presented vaccination data to Council during the meeting. They explained that there have been seven times more religious or philosophical exemptions than medical.

LAPS School Vaccine Exemptions:

  • Los Alamos High School – 1.32 percent;
  • Los Alamos Middle School – 1.7 percent;
  • Aspen Elementary – 2.79 percent;
  • Barranca Mesa Elementary – 2.98 percent.
  • Chamisa Elementary – 1.09 percent;
  • Mountain Elementary – 3.91 percent; and
  • Pinon Elementary – 3.82 percent.

“At two of our elementary schools the exemption level approaches 4 percent … at that point you get worried that the herd effect is not going to protect our kids,” Nichols said.

The Department of Health published a list of Counties with the highest numbers of children whose parents or guardians have opted to claim an exemption against vaccination. Los Alamos County ranks second on the list. The health of infants too young to receive vaccinations as well as those who are medically unable to receive vaccinations is largely dependent upon the rate of vaccination in the rest of the population.

The resolution Council passed Tuesday urges those who are medically able to obtain vaccinations against diseases for which vaccination is available to do so.

Resolution:

INCORPORATED COUNTY OF LOS ALAMOS RESOLUTION NO. 15-05 A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE CITIZENS OF LOS ALAMOS COUNTY TO VACCINATE AGAINST CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES WHEN MEDICALLY POSSIBLE TO DO SO

  • WHEREAS, the United States has experienced a serious outbreak of measles during the 2014-15 winter; and,
  • WHEREAS, the New Mexico Department of Health (“Department”) reports that measles is still common in many parts of the world and that travelers may bring the disease with them when they travel to the United States; and
  • WHEREAS, as of February 24, 2015 the Department has investigated four probable cases of measles in New Mexico during 2015; and
  • WHEREAS, the Department reports that measles is so contagious that it expects 9 out 10 exposed persons who do not have measles immunity will contract the disease; and
  • WHEREAS, the Department reports that Los Alamos records the second highest rate of vaccination exemptions in New Mexico; and,
  • WHEREAS, the incidence of Whooping Cough in Los Alamos County was four times the average rate in the State during 2013; and,
  • WHEREAS, the safety of infants in Los Alamos and of others who cannot be vaccinated depends on the rate of vaccination in our community.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the governing body of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos that the potential for the outbreak of a communicable childhood disease presents the possibility of a real health emergency in the County.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in view of the nationwide outbreak of measles and the high rate of vaccination waivers in Los Alamos County, the governing body of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos urges parents and others responsible for making decisions concerning the vaccination of children against childhood diseases get recommended vaccinations for their children.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 3rd day of March, 2015. COUNCIL OF THE INCORPORATED COUNTY OF LOS ALAMOS.

Youth advocate and Los Alamos Community Health Council Vice President Morrie Pongratz speaking in favor of the County’s proposed vaccination resolution. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Kathy Anderson of Aspen speaking in favor of the County’s proposed vaccination resolution. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Speaking as an individual and not as County Assessor, Ken Milder voices his support for the proposed vaccination resolution. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

NMDOH:Three red arrows pointing upward growing taller from left to right.

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) issued the following information Tuesday:

NMEOD is concerned that the number of vaccine exemptions among school-aged children increased again in 2014. An increase in vaccination exemptions can increase the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.

“We know the majority of the people who get measles are unvaccinated,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Since measles is still common in many parts of the world and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the US, we want all New Mexicans to know that it can spread when it reaches communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.”

New Mexico law allows parents to request vaccination exemptions for their children based on medical need or religious beliefs. The exemptions registered with the Immunization Program at the Department of Health are as follows:

  • 2012 – 2,845 exemptions
  • 2013 – 3,195 exemptions
  • 2014 – 3,335 exemptions

An ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland theme park in Orange County, California is highlighting the importance of vaccinations, and drawing attention to the public health risk associated with declining to get immunized. In 2015, there have been 84 measles cases in 14 states. Most of the cases are linked to the park outbreak.

New Mexico has not identified any cases connected to the California outbreak. New Mexico’s most recent case of measles was confirmed in December 2014 in a baby who did not receive the first measles vaccination. It was not determined where or how the baby was exposed. The baby was hospitalized and recovered.

Measles is a very contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is so contagious that if one infected person has it, 9 out of 10 exposed people who are not immune will also become infected. It spreads through the air when infected persons cough and sneeze. It can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person was coughing or sneezing, and on surfaces.

Infected people can spread measles to others who are not protected from 4 days before to 4 days after the measles rash appears. Measles symptoms usually appear about 7 to 14 days after a person is infected with the virus. Measles generally starts with:

  • High Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Red, Watery Eyes

The measles rash usually begins 3 to 5 days after symptoms start. When the rash appears, fever can reach 104° Fahrenheit or higher.

Measles can be a serious illness in all age groups. Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to get measles complications which include ear infections and diarrhea. Severe disease can require hospitalization, lead to complications, and in some cases cause death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Department of Health recommend that all children get two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

Generally, adults born before 1957 are considered immune and do not need vaccine. Adults born in 1957 or later who are not sure of their immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. It is important for international travelers to be protected and there are special recommendations for those persons.

To find out if your vaccinations are up to date, see your healthcare provider. The Department of Health offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized. Find a Public Health Office in your area today!

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