New data shows Maine children could be at higher risk for measles

    measles vaccines

    PORTLAND (WGME) -- Amid a measles outbreak out west, new data shows children here in Maine could be at risk.

    According to state data, the measles vaccination rate at more than 150 Maine schools is less than 95%. Health professionals say this is a troubling trend.

    "It's very concerning to me... I feel like we in Maine are at a high risk for a potential outbreak," Dr. Dora Mills of MaineHealth said.

    Health experts say the measles is one of the most contagious illnesses known to man.

    "For something like the measles which was just about eradicated - and seeing more and more cases if you look at the country at a whole... That's concerning,” R.N. Patricia Endsley of the Maine Association of School Nurses said.

    Maine has had no reported cases of measles this year

    Experts say low vaccine rates could leave the state vulnerable.

    According to state data in 160 schools the vaccination rate is below 95%. In some cases, well below.

    "I saw schools even in Portland In the greater Portland area that have 50%. Only 50% vaccination against measles," Mills said.

    Once rates dip below 95% experts worry about the threat to "herd immunity."

    "It just seems so stunning to me that we have parents who are refusing vaccination for their children against a disease that we know is very deadly," Mills said.

    Opponents say the data doesn’t add up, however.

    Policy Analyst, Becky Grant-Widen of the Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice spoke out in a phone interview saying, "Overall... The rate is above 95% among kindergartners... And when you get them into 1st grade the rate goes up to 96 - 97%,"

    Maine is one of 17 states where parents can "exempt" their children from immunizations. A new bill proposed in Augusta would eliminate that.

    "I would say it's easier to check off a box that says you're philosophically opposed to vaccines than it is to actually get your child vaccinated." Mills said.

    "We're really hurting them and preventing them from access to school when our policies that we have currently... Work," Grant-Widen said.

    A public hearing date for that legislation to eliminate those vaccine exceptions has not yet been set.

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