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March 29, 2019

No debate: Vaccines are the key to public health

Camden County freeholder: We need to discredit anyone who undermines our herd immunity

I have been following the reports of the recent mumps outbreak that has sickened 106 Temple University students in Philadelphia. Again, I must stress that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of this disease.

I am shocked as an educator and mother that there continues to be a bogus debate throughout our nation regarding the safety of vaccines. Let’s be clear: first there is no debate, second the science is strong and indisputable- there is absolutely no link between the MMR vaccine and any neurological disorders. Furthermore, you can make no mistake about it, the public’s health is compromised every time someone opts to not vaccinate their child.

MORE HEALTH: FYI, you're never too old to get measles (or the vaccine)

Taking a step back into history, prior to the vaccine presence, measles alone would kill 6,000 people a year and even after the vaccine was developed it still was responsible for hospitalizing 48,000 a year and killing 400-500 individuals on an annual basis. This was until the federal government made a push to completely eradicate the disease through nationwide inoculation. This was achieved 15 years ago in 2000, but fast-forward to today and according to the World Health Organization, our MMR vaccination rate has fallen behind some third world nations.

"This is not a debate and the science is clear when it comes to vaccines. They are pertinent to our public health and critical to our wellbeing, the health of our children and welfare of our community."

Measles itself is one of the most contagious airborne diseases on the planet. In fact, according to the CDC, 90 percent of the people close to an infected person who are not immune themselves will also become infected.

Mumps, as with measles, has been almost completely eradicated since the MMR vaccination went into effect in 1967. That said, mumps outbreaks still occur particularly in settings where people have close, extended interaction because the vaccine is only 88 percent effective. When these outbreaks occur the county health officer recommends an additional MMR vaccination, or a booster shot.

The good news is you are never too old to get vaccinated, in fact the federal government did not start requiring two doses of MMR until 1989, so if you only had one shot you should consult with your doctor to see if another dose of the vaccine is necessary.

As a society we are dependent on herd immunity because there are segments of our population that are unable to be vaccinated. These include infants, individuals who have medical conditions making them immunocompromised, and small number of people who allergy to the vaccine.

Carmen Rodriguez Camden County freeholderSource/Camden County

Carmen Rodriguez is a Camden County freeholder.

In Camden County, we have not had any recently reported cases, but I believe, as public health official we need to have a constant dialogue about this issue to thoroughly discredit anyone who undermines our herd immunity. The Camden County Department of Health and Human Services carries the MMR vaccine at our health clinics that are open to the public every day during the work week. Appointments can be made by going to our website or calling (856) 931-2700.

Again, please know this is not a debate and the science is clear when it comes to vaccines. They are pertinent to our public health and critical to our well-being, the health of our children and welfare of our community.

Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, the board's liaison to the county health department, holds a master's degree in chemistry education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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