Study: States can significantly reduce likelihood of measles outbreak with stronger exemption laws

States with more relaxed vaccine exemption rules can reduce the possibility of a measles outbreak by 140 to 190 percent by strengthening those regulations, according to a study recently published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers used a computational model for possible measles outbreaks under different non-medical vaccine exemption policies in the state of Colorado, which has relaxed exemption rules. Vaccine exemption policies were designated as easy, policies only requiring a parental signature; medium, policies which require parents to attend an educational session on vaccines and obtain a form from the health department; and difficult policies, which require parents to get a standardized form or a notarized statement of objection.

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"We found that a state like Colorado is 140 to 190 percent more likely to experience an outbreak with an easy exemption policy than if it had a medium or difficult non-medical exemption policy," said Melanie Whittington, PhD, a health services researcher and lead author of the study. "The outbreak size can also be reduced [by] nearly...half with stronger policies."

In Colorado, only 87.4 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months are immunized against the measles. Additionally, 5 percent of kindergartners in the state have vaccination exemptions. The high communicability of the measles requires a vaccination rate between 96 to 99 percent to establish herd immunity.

"In the year 2000[,] measles was no longer being transmitted in the U.S.," said Dr. Whittington. "Compare that to 2015 when we had over 150 cases in the first three months. Suddenly measles is an issue again despite having an effective vaccine."

More articles on infection control: 
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New Jersey pain clinic reopens after infecting 37 patients

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