Central N.Y. health official not too worried about a measles outbreak

Feb 9, 2015

Health officials in central New York are not overly worried about an outbreak of the measles virus similar to what other parts of the country are seeing, because the state has high vaccination rates against the disease.

Across the nation, cases of the highly contagious measles disease are at historic highs, linked to an outbreak at Disneyland in California.

An unrelated case in New York was found in a passenger on an Amtrak train last month bound for upstate New York. But Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says travelers heading to Syracuse were in a different part of that train.

"In addition, we have very high vaccination rate, also, here. So that adds up to our feeling comfortable," she said.

Still, the outbreak has reignited the debate about the safety and necessity of vaccinations. A decades old study saying inoculations can lead to mental problems in children has been debunked. And health officials insist the vaccines are safe. But parents do still seek waivers from the shots.

The combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is legally required in New York and it is tougher here than in some other states to get out of. Gupta says when vaccine rates are high, it creates a communal immunity.

"You are actually, when you’re vaccinating your child, you are not only protecting your child, your family, but it’s going beyond that," Gupta said. "You’re protecting your neighbors, you’re protecting the community, because you’re adding to the part of the herd immunity."

Most schools in Onondaga County report high vaccination rates to the state health department. Exemptions for vaccines in New York can be given for religious and medical reasons. And because of that, here are a few exceptions.

Private schools, including the Montessori School in Syracuse have lower vaccination rates, where about five to 10 percent of students have exemptions. More than half, 56 percent, of the students at Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God School in Warners are not vaccinated.

The large Amish community in the North Country does not vaccinate.

A map of school vaccination rates from the state health department: