Utah first lady Jacalyn Leavitt joined with state Health Department officials on Friday to ask parents and other community leaders to make sure children have a second dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The call came in response to the Utah measles epidemic, which has struck 109 sufferers, most of them in the southwestern part of the state. This is the worst epidemic in the country, said Rick Crankshaw, manager of the department's immunization program.A significant number of those infected had received one dose of MMR, he said. "MMR is an extremely safe and effective vaccine. Ninety-five percent of those immunized are likely to be protected for life."
With two doses, immunization reaches 99 percent. "The problem is that measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. It has a knack for finding those children or individuals who either have not been immunized at all or who are in the 5 percent who are not protected with just one dose."
Although a second dose is required for students entering school, that is a relatively new rule and not all young people have received the second immunization. Salt Lake and Utah counties have tried to remedy that by making students entering certain grades get a second shot, but the rest of the state isn't affected by their rules.
Many Utahns between 4 years old and college age have not received a second MMR vaccine, said Ross Martin, spokesman for the health department. Richard Melton, the department's director has been talking with health officers about the desirability of beefing up state requirements, possibly even asking the Legislature for a $2.5 million grant for the project.
"But really at this point, our message is: `get immunized,' " Martin said.