Mississippi is model on Measles

By TIM KALICH GREENWOOD COMMONWEALTH,

There is a tendency, when talking about Mississippi, to focus heavily on the areas where the state doesn’t do well.

Given its low ranking in desirable categories, such as income and education, and its high ranking in undesirable ones, such as incarceration and obesity, there’s a lot to talk about when discussing our state’s failings.

But there are also some areas where we shine, such as charitable giving and home ownership.

Another is vaccination rates, a topic that is much in the news these days due to the measles outbreak in parts of the country where government officials have been cowed by the paranoid fringe into granting too many immunization exemptions.

On Monday, U.S. health officials reported that this year’s measles count is now up to 555 cases.  At that pace, 2019 will easily be the largest outbreak since the turn of the century, when the potentially fatal disease had been statistically eradicated.

The measles comeback is largely a result of the  anti-vaccination movement, which has been fueled by misinformation and propaganda about the dangers of inoculating children.

Mississippi, to its great credit, has stuck with medical science, which unequivocally says that vaccination is a safe and essential ingredient to public health. This state is one of the two strictest in the nation on vaccination exemptions. It only allows them for a legitimate medical reason, certified by a doctor.

As a result, not only does Mississippi have a vaccination rate approaching 100 percent, but it is also measles-free. In fact, Mississippi has not had a case of measles since 1992.

There is a risk, though, that outbreaks elsewhere could ultimately spill over to this state, since we live in a mobile society. So-called “herd immunity” only works as long as you stay with the herd. Mississippi children who are too young to be vaccinated and people of all ages whose compromised immune system precludes vaccination could be at risk if they are exposed to an infected person from somewhere else.

Mississippi’s 27-year streak of being measles-free. didn’t happen by accident. It has been the result of a strong public health stance that has beaten back periodic efforts in the Legislature to weaken the immunization regulations for children.

The measles scare elsewhere underscores that Mississippi got this one right.

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