Spurred by a rash of measles and mumps outbreaks in recent years, county health officials plan to offer free booster vaccinations to all seventh-graders this spring.

The Anne Arundel Health Department received 4,746 doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine through a federal contract aimed at stemming a nationwide upsurge in measles cases.

Last April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported a two-thirds increase in measles cases across the country. Maryland witnessed a parallel upswing, with 212 measles cases reported in 1990, compared to 113 cases in 1989.

Although more than one-third of the cases were in Baltimore, surrounding suburbs also had an outbreak of measles last spring. Anne Arundel reported 15 measles cases in 1990, most among young adults between the ages of 20 and 35. At the same time, children in 20 county schools came down with mumps.

To prevent another outbreak of the highly contagious diseases this spring, the county is participating in a statewide vaccination program.

All 22 counties and Baltimore city will receive free MMR vaccines, paid through increased federal financing for programs to slow the spread of measles, said Barry Trostle, director of immunization at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Each combination shot cost the state $15, at least $10 cheaper than the standard rate charged by most doctors.

Anne Arundel health officers will begin giving shots to seventh-graders in the county's 16 middle and junior high schools starting Jan. 30.

Vaccines also will be offered at 11 of Anne Arundel's 14 community health centers. Private schools and physicianswho want to offer free MMR vaccines can receive them through the health department, said Lani Smith Majer, director of school health services.

"We want to immunize as many children as we can," she said. "Measles can be a very serious disease. Certainly, if you have a vaccine, you want to reach as many as possible."

Most children alreadyhave been immunized against measles because the state requires the vaccination to enter school, she said. The vaccine is believed to be 95 percent effective. The failure rate is slim, but it has been blamedfor recent outbreaks.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics andthe Centers for Disease Control now recommend that people born after1956 be revaccinated. "The move for a second immunization started because of the outbreaks of measles in the last couple years," Majer said.

The state has suggested that health departments give the vaccine to children entering secondary schools. Unlike earlier shots, the vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella, commonly known as German measles. Some children never receive mumps shots because they'renot required to enter school, Majer said.

Four county schools already reported mumps cases this school year, said Wendy Herrick Mahan,immunization division representative for the Anne Arundel Health Department. The county had 87 cases last year, including outbreaks in 20schools, with five reporting three or more cases.

Anyone who wants more information on the program can call 222-7095.


Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad