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Washington vaccination rate spikes as measles outbreak continues

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Image: James Gathany/CDC

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Measles vaccination rates in Washington have jumped since the onset of an outbreak, with the biggest increase in vaccination coming from the county most impacted by the virus.

Public health officials in Oregon and Washington reported a combined 56 confirmed cases of measles. A majority of those came from Clark County, home to Vancouver, where 51 cases have been confirmed since Jan. 1. Thirteen additional cases were suspected.

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially dangerous viral illness that is transmitted through coughing and sneezing. Forty-three of the patients in southwest Washington were not vaccinated against the disease and one patient had one shot of the two-shot series.

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Vaccination rates in Clark County and throughout the state have gone up since the outbreak was first reported.

From Washington State Department of Health.

In the third week of January, 644 children aged 1-18 were vaccinated against measles in the county. That's up from an average of 189 over the same period in previous years.

The trend continued over the next two weeks, with more than 1,000 getting vaccinated each week. That's up from about 200 each week.

It's not just children that are getting vaccinated in the county, either. More than 1,700 hundred adults have been vaccinated since the third week of January. That's up from an average of 60 over the same period in other years.

Vaccination rates in King County - where the other single measles case in Washington was is located - also went up. But not nearly as much as Clark County. More than 2,000 children were vaccinated in the first week of February in 2019. That's up from an average of 1,225.

Adult vaccination numbers in the county also rose. Nearly 500 adults were vaccinated in the first week of February, up from an average of 176 in the years before.

Children and adult vaccinations rates across the state rose, especially in the first week of February.

From Washington State Department of Health.

Washington lawmakers, meanwhile, will hold a public hearing Friday on a bill that would remove the so-called "philosophical" exemption for the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR.

Fifty of the confirmed measles cases are in southwest Washington, one is in the Seattle area and four are in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. Three more possible exposure sites were also identified in Vancouver, Washington, on Wednesday, leading to the possibility of more cases.

With more suspected cases, the outbreak isn't close to being over, officials said.

"Any time we start getting a little optimistic, something happens. We're hopeful and any time we see that there are no new exposure locations that's helpful," said Marissa Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Clark County Public Health. "But I think we all still know that it's not over yet."

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