PA Has Second-Lowest Measles Vaccination Rates in Nation / Only 86% of PA Children Entering Kindergarten Have Measles Vaccine with Levels Under 80% in At Least Two Counties / 49 of 67 PA Counties Appear to Have Vaccination Rates Below the 95% Threshold that Experts Believe is Necessary to Protect Public Health
Philadelphia, PA- As Pennsylvania lags in vaccination rates, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), joined by one of the country’s leading vaccination experts, Penn professor Dr. Paul Offit, urged Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated. Pennsylvania has the nation’s second lowest measles vaccination rate in the nation among kindergarteners. Only 86% of children entering kindergarten have the measles vaccine and there are at least two counties where the rates are under 80%. Overall, 49 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties appear to have vaccination rates below the 95% threshold that medical professionals believe is necessary to protect public health. Casey and Dr. Offit discussed the need for children to be vaccinated to protect their health and the public health. Senator Casey also highlighted his plans to work with PA Department of Health to improve vaccination rates.
“One of the best ways to protect children and our nation’s public health is to get vaccinated,” Senator Casey said. “I appreciate the efforts underway at the state Department of Health to inform residents about the importance of vaccinations. In the coming weeks I look forward to working with state officials to continue and increase these efforts so more parents know about the benefits of vaccinations.”
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter to the state Department of Health can be seen below:
Dear Secretary Murphy:
I write today to express my concern about the low rate of vaccination in Pennsylvania, especially with respect to measles. I know that you share my concerns and I appreciate the work that the state is undertaking to make more Pennsylvanians aware of the benefits of vaccines. With one case of measles already identified in Cumberland County, connected to the California Disneyland cluster, I am concerned that our state may be faced with a potential outbreak. As your agency works to raise awareness about the need to get vaccinated, I urge you to redouble your current robust efforts to inform Pennsylvanians about this critical public health challenge. I respect the rights of individuals to make decisions based on their own religious beliefs. However, we have a responsibility to protect the health of vulnerable infants.
As you know, while about 95 percent of kindergarteners nationally have been vaccinated against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, in Pennsylvania the rate of measles vaccination in this population is only 86 percent – and at least two counties have vaccination rates under 80 percent. This places Pennsylvania second-lowest in the Nation for measles vaccine rates, and means that potentially thousands of children in the state remain unprotected and at risk. As you work to address this challenge, I look forward to working in partnership with you to promote these efforts.
As you know from your years of experience in the field of health care, measles is highly contagious, but easily prevented through vaccination. The vaccine has been used safely for many years and is highly effective. According to medical experts, around 95 percent of people must be vaccinated against measles in order to minimize its spread and protect people who cannot be vaccinated. Children who contract measles are at risk for complications including pneumonia and encephalitis.
It is time to act swiftly to ensure that every eligible child is vaccinated against this highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. Given that 49 Pennsylvania counties appear to have kindergarten vaccination rates below 95 percent, I urge you to advance the work currently underway and continue to examine the reasons that have led to such low vaccination rates in much of the state, especially to determine if the lower rates are correlated with higher rates of exemptions. In addition, if there are steps that you believe that I can take at the federal level that will assist you in your efforts to promote public health through vaccination, please do not hesitate to contact me.
On this and other matters, I look forward to working together. Thank you for your commitment to public service and a healthier Pennsylvania.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator