I want to thank the Public Health-Idaho North Central District, Gritman Medical Center and other area health providers in Moscow for their response to the two cases of measles reported in early June. Most of all, I want to thank residents of Latah County for vaccinating their children.
As a community, our vaccination rate shows we prioritize protecting our most vulnerable. A high vaccination rate shields people allergic to vaccines, too young to be vaccinated and those for whom the vaccine is not effective. Most public schools in Latah County have rates of vaccination for measles greater than 90 percent. Our rate was high enough that no more cases of measles have appeared.
There will never be a time when 100 percent of Idaho is vaccinated because so many individuals have a valid, necessary medical exemption. However, we should be trying to get as close to 100 percent as possible.
There has been a lot of misinformation in recent years about the dangers of vaccines. This information is simply inaccurate. Idaho is one of the only states that allows for vaccine exemptions and, unfortunately, that has led to increases in children who are entering school without being vaccinated. The state does not require those students or their parents to alert fellow classmates to their decision, so students who have a medical reason for not getting a vaccine are left unprotected.
Diseases like measles will always exist and there will likely be several cases throughout Idaho in the future. The measles cases in our community were from two infants too young to be vaccinated and were exposed overseas.
That is why we must do what we can to protect the people who can’t do anything about it. We hold their lives in our hands. All Idahoans must take the responsibility to protect their communities seriously or we could end up putting hundreds of lives at risk with an outbreak reflective of a time when we didn’t have the science or technology to understand diseases.
I know that I am safe in the event of a large-scale measles outbreak. I know that my family is safe. But my responsibility does not end with myself and my family. I will continue to encourage everyone who is able to get a vaccine to make the right decision to protect themselves and their family, friends, and neighbors.
Please join me in making sure that those who cannot get vaccinated don’t have to worry what will happen to them the next time a serious disease rears its head. Because of modern hygiene and medicine, measles is a relatively mild disease for most people. But it is fatal for about one in 10,000 people. Let’s make sure no one in Idaho is that one in 10,000.
Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, is serving in his first term as an Idaho state senator.