Disney measles outbreak has parents scrambling to vaccinate kids

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The measles outbreak that began at Disneyland last month has a lot of parents scrambling to check their children's immunization status, and in some cases scrapping their plans to delay their youngster's vaccinations, according to local pediatricians.

A lot of anxious parents are reaching out to their pediatricians, says Dr. Deborah Lehman, clinical director of pediatric infectious disease at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She says she has been inundated with emails and calls from pediatricians seeking her advice.

"Parents are calling pediatricians about what their risks are and checking on their vaccination status," says Lehman.

The government's recommended schedule calls for children to get the first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at around age one, and the second dose before entering kindergarten. Lehman says her advice to those who have not gotten either, or have delayed that second shot, is to get caught up as soon as possible.

Those who have not had either shot can get both within four weeks, she adds, noting that babies as young as six months can receive an early dose before receiving the other two shots, if they are at risk of exposure.

There are now 72 confirmed cases of measles since the outbreak began at the Disney theme parks last month, 64 of them in California.

Dr. Janesri De Silva works at three local clinics run by the Kids and Teens Medical Group. She says these days, about a quarter of her patients are asking about the measles vaccine.

"There are lots of families who delayed it and their kids might be over a year or over 4," she says. "They feel now, because there is a measles outbreak, that it is time for them to get the vaccine."

De Silva says other parents are checking to see if they’re up-to-date with the vaccine, and some are seeking reassurances about the vaccine’s efficacy.

"Even children who have heard the story on the news are asking their parents to bring them in,” she says. “There is a bit of fear about the measles because of the outbreak."

DeSilva says she hears a wide range of reasons from parents for being behind schedule. Some have concerns about vaccines' potential side effects and others say they just hadn’t gotten around to bringing their child in, she says.

Dr.  Lisa Stern works at 10th St. Pediatrics in Santa Monica. She says doctors there have given the measles vaccine to kids whose parents had previously delayed getting them their shots. And the staff is looking up lots of records to make sure patients and former patients now in their 20s are up-to-date, adds Stern.

Stern says she took a call a couple of weeks ago from an "hysterical" mother. It was a Friday night and the woman was crying, saying that she needed to bring her 6-year-old daughter in immediately for her second measles shot, recalls Stern.

"The reason she was in such a panic was because she had houseguests coming who had been to Disneyland," Stern says, adding that she gave the child her shot the next day.

The pediatricians interviewed for this story say that so far, the Disney outbreak does not seem to have changed the minds of their patients who are opposed to vaccination on principle.

US Measles cases map

The map below shows the location and number of confirmed measles cases in the U.S. as of January 22nd, 2015. An additional cases related to the outbreak was discovered in Mexico.