The dangerous advance of measles, a disease that has reached epidemic proportions in several New York City neighborhoods, must prompt responsible actions to stop infectious diseases through vaccination from an early age.
We make a strong call to families in Puerto Rico to value vaccination as a proven tool to stop infectious diseases. The rise in incidence is impacting different parts of the world, including the most developed countries.
Official data show the magnitude of the problem. As of mid-April 2019, 555 measles cases have been confirmed in 20 U.S. states. According to the Pan American Health Organization, these cases correspond to six outbreaks involving mostly people who traveled to countries with increasing measles incidence.
Measles cases were reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington. Puerto Ricans frequently visit most of these states.
More than half of the cases in the United States have been reported in New York City, particularly in Brooklyn. It would not be surprising if that infected people entering the island come from that jurisdiction since passenger traffic between that jurisdiction and Puerto Rico is high.
Puerto Rico must strengthen measures to prevent the spread of measles. Parents or guardians are responsible for ensuring compliance with their child´s vaccination schedule and boosters. The State should also facilitate access to vaccines.
This will avoid having to apply extraordinary measures such as those adopted by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who declared a public health emergency forcing people in the most impacted neighborhoods to vaccinate or face hefty fines of up to $1,000. He also warned about the possibility of closing schools that continue to allow unvaccinated children in classes.
Experts establish a link between the rejection of vaccines and the rise in the prevalence of infectious diseases, such as measles, in developed countries. Resistance is associated with the scientifically discredited belief that vaccines cause autism and suspicions surrounding drug producers and governments.
According to health authorities, Puerto Rico hasn´t recorded measles cases since 2002. Vaccination from an early age is mandatory on the island.
But the global drop in vaccine coverage has led to the return of measles in developed regions such as Europe. However, contagion can be prevented with the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) or the bivalent vaccine (measles-rubella).
Vaccines are a barrier against infectious diseases; they protect the health and lives of millions of children every year. Their impact transcends the individual: they protect the vaccinated person and the rest of the community due to the effect of group immunity when at least 95 percent of its members are vaccinated.
Not vaccinating children seriously affects the umbrella of collective protection and opens the door to diseases that were already eliminated. Today, measles is threatening the U.S., tomorrow other infectious diseases may have the same harmful potential.
We trust that Puerto Rico can keep the defensive barrier against diseases that can be prevented through a responsible and timely vaccination process.