Health officials urge vaccination as Michigan measles cases rise

Posted at 6:15 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 18:15:47-05

BIRMINGHAM (WXYZ) — There are now three confirmed cases of the measles in Michigan, and all three are in metro Detroit.

Oakland County was the first to report their case on Feb. 23. Over the weekend, Washtenaw County and Wayne County also reported cases.

“It's happened a few times before and it's always a little bit distressing,” parent Evita Singh said.

Health officials say they are isolated cases linked to international travel, although there are multiple sites where people locally may have been exposed.

“I've been seeing the headlines that it’s definitely a thing now,” parent Hope McGrath said.

“My children who are 3 and 6 are both fully vaccinated. And just like any illness going around, I as a parent will stay vigilant,” parent Rachna Gulati said.

These parents all say their kids were given the MMR vaccine, which is 97% effective against the virus.

Health officials like Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, are urging people who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated, as at least 16 states report cases.

“It's been around since the 1960s. We have decades and decades of experience using it," Bagdasarian said of the vaccine. "It's incredibly safe and one of our most effective vaccines.”

Bagdasarian says the virus has been considered eliminated in the United States for over 20 years, but statewide, vaccination rates among kids ages 4 to 6 has dropped nearly 5% in recent years.

“Given our lower vaccination rates in Michigan and across the country, we are putting ourselves at greater risk of a measles outbreak," Bagdasairan said. "It's a matter of when, not if.”

It’s recommended kids get vaccinated with one dose at 12 months and another dose at 4 years old for lifelong immunity. Vaccines are available at doctors offices, health departments and pharmacies.

“That's something we can order if someone calls us and says do you carry MMR? We definitely can do that,” said pharmacist Yacoub Apoian with Mills Pharmacy in Birmingham.

Apoian says it’s not common, but he has given the MMR vaccine. He encourages kids to get theirs from a pediatrician. While he doesn’t always keep doses in stock, that may change if cases rise.

“If there started to be dozens and dozens of cases popping up, would you order more to have in stock?" 7 Action News reporter Brett Kast asked.

"Oh, 100%," Apoian said. "I could easily order hundreds if I needed to.”

For now, that’s not needed as health departments hope to keep these cases isolated, encouraging those who haven’t to get vaccinated.

“These are three isolated cases. We have not seen a large outbreak yet and we can avoid a large outbreak if folks get vaccinated,” Bagdasarian said.

“It is deadly among kids and so it is a little bit scary to know something that killed so many children in the past is resurging again,” Singh said.

If you believe you were exposed to measles and you have symptoms, before you show up at your local emergency or urgent care, health officials are asking that you call ahead so the provider can take precautions to make sure others aren’t exposed.