Town Considers Requiring Measles Vaccine For Programs

Toms River Town Hall (Photo by Jason Allentoff)

TOMS RIVER – Fueled by the precedent of New York City requiring vaccines, Toms River might require proof of immunization as a condition for children to attend recreation programs.

There are about 600 children who use programs, Mayor Thomas Kelaher said, and their safety is paramount. He asked that the Township Council place this issue on a future agenda.

The County Department of Health reported 33 associated cases last year (30 in Ocean, three in Passaic County); and 12 associated cases this year (eight in Ocean, four in Monmouth). They also issued warnings about locations where people could have come in contact with a carrier of the disease.

New York has a much worse problem with measles than Ocean County. One news agency reported hundreds of cases in New York City alone. Officials warned of “measles parties,” where parents would bring unvaccinated children together with a sick child. The intention is that the child would pick up the disease, and fight it off naturally and gain natural immunity. The city has declared this a public health emergency, and as such, has required people living in certain zip codes to be vaccinated.

Measles is passed through air when someone coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include high fever, cough, rash, runny and red nose, and water eyes. Complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis can develop in more severe cases.

Pregnant women who develop measles can miscarry, go into premature labor or deliver a low-birth-weight baby.

Health officials urge everyone healthy enough to be vaccinated to ensure they are up-to-date on vaccines. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed, with an incubation time of 21 days, before a person is considered immune.

“We urge everyone to check to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects others around you who are too young to get the vaccine or can’t receive it for medical reasons. If you’re planning an international trip, the World Health Organization recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of measles vaccine before traveling,” state epidemiologist. Dr. Christina Tan said. “Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective in preventing measles.”

Anyone who believes they may have been exposed should reach out to their primary care physician and make arrangements to be seen, ensuring to not infect others.