VASHON ISLAND, Wash. - Out of the 78 measles cases in our state so far, 63 of the people who got sick were never vaccinated.
And whenever there is an outbreak, communities with lower vaccination rates are always a concern - places like Vashon Island. But even for this place, it appears the tide is slowly changing.
It’s less than a 30-minute ferry ride to Vashon Island from Seattle. The community is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of an urban lifestyle.
“Whatever you are into is encouraged and celebrated in Vashon,” resident Matt Dorman said.
Over the years, this small community of about 10,000 people has become well known for its population of people against vaccines.
“We don’t really discuss it a lot it’s a little tricky,” resident Angela Hodge said.
Hodge says she stays away from the vaccination debate because it can get heated.
“Try to keep a cool head I guess,” Hodge said.
Hodge’s children are up to date on all vaccines but they will be going into schools with a higher than normal population of kids who are not immunized.
“I think it’s sad it takes an outbreak that it becomes a reality to people,” Hodge said.
The reality is that the measles outbreak in the state of Washington is spreading. The vast majority of cases were multiplying in Clark County earlier year but now King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are seeing more confirmed cases.
“It’s going to be a rude awakening,” Amy Gilman said.
Gilman says if a case of the measles were to make it to Vashon Island it would spread more quickly with more unprotected people.
“I can imagine schools will have to be shut down, businesses, there would be isolation,” Gilman said.
But there is some promising news.
The tide may be turning slowly in Vashon Island, King County Health Department says more families are vaccinating their kids.
In a span of more than five years, the vaccination rate for kindergarteners on the island went up from 56% to nearly 74% in the 2017 to 2018 school year.
Although vaccination rates are up it is still far from ideal.
The rate in the Vashon Island School District is still the lowest in King County and a big disparity compared to other districts like Renton and Issaquah reporting that 90% and 94%, respectively, of their kindergarteners are on time for their vaccines.
“It doesn’t just protect children, it protects all the vulnerable people in our nursing homes,” Gilman said.
Newborns and people with compromised immune systems cannot get the measles vaccine, making it more important for those who can, to do their part.
Dorman’s daughter just turned one, and he says he recently took her in for vaccines.
“It can be a little bit of a worry, she is one now so she is able to get that vaccination taken care of,” Dorman said.
People usually do not die from the measles but you have to worry about complications. Things like ear infections, pneumonia and in some rare cases neurological disorders.
Also, health experts have a special warning for people who received the measles vaccine as a child between the years 1963 and 1967. They say the vaccines during that four-year period were not effective so check your immunization records and if that is you doctors say you need to get vaccinated again.