Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children may be putting them, and others in their communities, at risk of contracting the measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.
The report details the investigation of a 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego triggered by an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy. The child contracted the virus during a family trip to Switzerland and unknowingly exposed 850 people after returning home. As a result, nine other children, who were also intentionally unvaccinated, and three infants that were too young to be vaccinated were infected.
In the report, researchers warn that:
Despite high community vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks can occur among clusters of intentionally undervaccinated children, at major cost to public health agencies, medical systems, and families. Rising rates of intentional undervaccination can undermine measles elimination.
The work follows a recent study showing that vaccinating chidren against seasonal influenza can protect the wider community.