State health agency announces measures to fight measles

 
By Grant Morgan
Capitol News Illinois
gmorgan@capitolnewsillinois.com
Updated 4/23/2019 5:32 PM
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  • The Illinois Department of Public Health will start a marketing campaign to combat "extensive misinformation" about measles vaccines and will bring mobile clinics to under-vaccinated neighborhoods.

    The Illinois Department of Public Health will start a marketing campaign to combat "extensive misinformation" about measles vaccines and will bring mobile clinics to under-vaccinated neighborhoods. Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday a slate of initiatives to increase vaccination rates statewide.

There have been seven cases of measles in Illinois so far this year, and more than 600 in 22 states around the country.

"We are taking the threat posed by a rise in measles cases very seriously and are committed to taking action to keep Illinoisans safe," Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a news release.

The initiatives include a marketing campaign to combat "extensive misinformation" about vaccines and bringing mobile clinics to community events and under-vaccinated neighborhoods.

"I'm glad they are addressing it and taking it seriously," said Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association, an advocacy group for local health departments and public health workers.

Hughes' organization is starting a similar campaign to increase vaccination rates and education. He doesn't know whether the state department will work with his group.

"I don't know if there's a role for IPHA to play in this, but we'll do whatever we can to support it," he said.

The department's announcement also outlined its plan to assess schools with student vaccination rates of less than 95 percent. It cited transportation, health clinic hours, complicated paperwork and long wait times as the main barriers to completing routine vaccinations.

Under the law, all Illinois students must be vaccinated to attend school, but some children do not get inoculated because of religious exemptions or a lack of school enforcement.

"Vaccination is our best tool to protect our families," Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.

Ezike added that while the state's overall vaccination rates are "strong," some areas remain vulnerable to outbreaks if just one person is infected.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Health did not respond to questions about the initiatives' specifics -- including cost and a timeline for rollout.

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