Vaccines Save Lives

As measles cases continue in the U.S., make sure children are protected, public health officials say.

child receives vaccination
Stock photo for illustrative purposes only

As school begins again in North America and Europe, public health advocates are reminding parents about the importance of vaccinating children against measles and other childhood diseases. People who have primary immunodeficiency disease (PI) are particularly at risk when outbreaks occur.

CNN recently reported that the United States might lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles. The World Health Organization granted this status in 2000, CNN reported, but ongoing measles outbreaks in New York have put it in jeopardy.

The Immune Deficiency Foundation posted this message on its Facebook page this month. “Staying up to date on vaccinations and creating herd immunity is especially crucial for protecting the #idfcommunity.”  Primary immunodeficiency patients are vulnerable to serious infections because their immune systems don’t work as they should.

The measles outbreaks in the U.S. happened because parents did not vaccinate their children, a pediatrician with the American Academy of Pediatrics told ABC News. See the AAP’s recommended vaccine schedule.

Four European countries - Albania, Czechia, Greece and the United Kingdom - lost their measles elimination status in late August, the WHO reported. An independent panel of experts reviews the number of measles cases and assess each country’s response to outbreaks. Two countries - Austria and Switzerland – had improved outcomes and received measles elimination status, the WHO said.

For more information about Europe, see a recent update from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who have primary immunodeficiency diseases (actually a group of more than 350 rare, chronic disorders) depend on “herd immunity,” IDF CEO John Boyle testified earlier this year before a U.S. Senate committee on health.

What’s herd immunity? It’s achieved when much of a community (the herd) is vaccinated, protecting the most vulnerable and making all members less likely to contract and spread the disease. Because of their faulty immune systems, vaccines may be ineffective and, in some cases, not recommended for people who have PI, Boyle said.

Herd immunity also protects at-risk patients from influenza (the flu). Here’s how it works:

herd immunity infographic