Health

San Diegans Encouraged to Vaccinate Children Against Measles, Other Diseases

Measles vaccine. Photo via Shutterstock

Not long ago, many San Diegans were worried about measles making its way to the region after cases were reported in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

So far, the highly contagious virus hasn’t arrived in San Diego, which has not seen a measles case since 2017. However, we all must continue to be vigilant.

However, measles and other contagious diseases are a plane ride away and could arrive in the region at any time, especially into areas with lower vaccination rates.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the County Health and Human Services Agency is encouraging San Diegans to make sure their children are vaccinated against measles and more than a dozen other vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Vaccines are the best line of defense we have against disease,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Because of vaccines, most parents have not seen first-hand the devastating consequences of diseases like measles and others.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get vaccinated against 16 diseases.

Vaccine-preventable diseases continue to sicken people around the world, and in the United States. Outbreaks of diseases like influenza, pertussis, mumps and measles can and do happen in this country. In recent years, there have been local outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, including the pertussis death of a 5-week-old San Diego infant in 2016.

According to the CDC, when children get vaccinated, an estimated 381 million illnesses, 24.5 million hospitalizations and 855,000 deaths will be prevented.

Still, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children, and themselves, against common vaccine-preventable diseases.

In San Diego County, of the more than 46,000 kindergarteners enrolled in public and private schools during the 2018-19 school year, 92.5 percent had received all the recommended vaccines, compared to 93.2 the previous school year. Also, the number of kindergartners with permanent medical exemptions increased from 1.2 percent to 1.3 percent during the same period.

“Since all vaccines go through a rigorous approval process—by scientists, doctors and the federal government—they are safe and effective,” Wooten said. “It’s important that we continue to vaccinate our children to keep them from getting sick.”

Recommended Vaccines

Children who are 4 to 6 years of age are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Preteens and teens need a Tdap booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papillomavirus and meningococcal disease. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Parents can obtain the vaccines for their children through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center for free. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.

For more information about the required back-to-school vaccines, call the Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit sdiz.org. To find the nearest County public health center or community clinic, call 2-1-1.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact