Ga., S.C. lag in measles shots as experts worry about virus

Millions of children unvaccinated against measles
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:04 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Millions of children missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization report, is a “staggering” increase of measles outbreaks and deaths.

While there was an increase in vaccination coverage globally in 2022 from 2021, the report shows 33 million children missed a measles vaccine dose.

“Measles is a terrible disease. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, my grandma got measles and she was fine.’ So, at best, measles can just be a mild illness. But, at worst, it can cause disability and death,” said Dr. Keyana Washington, a pediatrician with Gwinnett Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Vaccination rates in Georgia and South Carolina were a little below the national average for the 2021-2022 school year, according to the CDC:

Immunization programKindergarten populationSurveyed, %2 doses MMR, %5 doses DTaP, %4 doses polio, %2 Doses VAR, %Grace period or provisional enrollment, %Any exemption, %Percentage point change in any exemption, 2020–2021
National estimate3,835,13092.293.092.793.
South Carolina58,27627.292.791.091.992.

Washington says complications in measles can be deadly in children. The airborne illness, which she says is highly contagious, is preventable with two doses of a vaccine.

However, vaccine hesitancy is a worrying trend Washington says she noticed during the pandemic.

“People are at home. They’re exposed to social media. They’re exposed to some information that may not be true or accurate that raises a lot of questions. Which is why, again, it’s important for them to come in so we can talk through that,” she said.

Steven Damon and his team over at Atlanta-based company, Micron Biomedical, have developed a needle-less vaccine that he hopes instills another layer of confidence in getting vaccinated.

“For me, personally, when I know I’m self-administering my vaccination I feel better about that,” Damon said.

Right now, the company is developing measles and rubella vaccines to distribute to low-income countries.

Damon hopes the button can save lives.

“They don’t have the skilled caregivers, the physicians to inject them. They don’t have the refrigeration to get the vaccines to the patients. So, something as simple as this where the mother can actually administer it to the child makes a big difference,” he said.