Measles Outbreak Triggers Sharp Rise in Demand for Vaccine in Washington State

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Health clinics in Clark County, Washington are scrambling to meet the sharply increased demand for measles vaccination as people seek protection during an outbreak of the highly contagious virus.

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State health department data show that orders for two types of measles vaccines in the county were nearly 500 percent higher in January than in the same month last year, spiking from 530 doses to 3,150, Kaiser Health News reported.

One facility, the Vancouver Clinic, said it gave 1,444 measles shots in January, compared with 263 last January, a nearly 450 percent increase.

There have been more than 50 confirmed cases of measles and 11 suspected cases in Clark County this year.

Only 76.5 percent of kindergartners in the county had all the required immunizations for the 2017-18 school year, and health officials have long been concerned about the risk of an outbreak in the region.

State-wide, orders for measles vaccine rose about 30 percent in January compared with the same month last year, from 12,140 doses to 15,780 doses, data show, Kaiser reported.

The measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest also includes one confirmed case in King County, where Seattle is located, and four in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Ore.

Washington and Oregon are among 17 states that permit non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for school entry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A measure introduced by Washington state Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) would remove personal belief exemptions for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, Kaiser reported.

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