March of Dimes spreads word about measles outbreak

Imari Scarbrough Staff Writer

September 17, 2013

The March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur have launched the Word of Moms campaign in honor of 75 years of March of Dimes and are encouraging moms and caregivers to advocate for childhood, adolescent and adult vaccinations.

As part of the campaign, March of Dimes launched a national survey of over 500 U.S. moms that found that almost 85 percent of mothers and other female relatives “sometimes, usually, or always relied on advice from the female relatives in their family when it came to the health of their children,” according to MoD. Additionally, almost 80 percent of moms said that immunization is one of the best ways to keep children healthy, but many of these mothers were unaware of certain diseases that still need to be eradicated against, the survey found.

Over 130 cases of measles have been reported in 2013, over twice the amount reported in 2012, according to the March of Dimes. Large outbreaks include some in New York, resulting in at least 58 reported cases of measles. A child contracted pneumonia and two pregnant women were hospitalized, one of whom suffered a miscarriage, according to a July report in the Wall Street Journal. This was the largest outbreak of measles in the U.S. since measles was declared to be eliminated in 2000, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The situation grew so severe that new vaccination rules were made, according to the NYCDOH. In addition to stressing vaccination importance, schools were told to exclude all students from school who did not have the vaccine for several weeks if one student contracted it in order to stop it from spreading.

Another large outbreak related to a megachurch in Texas has led to at least 20 cases of measles, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. “Since the introduction of vaccine, cases have decreased by 99.9% in Texas,” the TDSHS said. “Nearly all cases and outbreaks of measles in the U.S. and Texas since 2000 have occurred among persons exposed to imported cases from countries where measles is still endemic.”

Just because measles was declared eliminated doesn’t mean there are no further cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease no longer spreads throughout the country, but can be contracted or spread, especially if a traveler brings if from countries such as Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, according to the CDC.

Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor to the March of Dimes, stressed the importance of vaccinations against measles to prevent the outbreak from spreading, as well as other preventable diseases. “The risk of not being vaccinated is much higher than being vaccinated,” she said. “If people are concerned, they should talk to a doctor or midwife if there’s a personal circumstance. But unfortunately, some of the fears come from science that has been withdrawn… we look today and vaccines are safe and effective. Folks are hanging on to fears of vaccines, so we need to air those concerns out and talk about them.”

Nikki Fleming, a Word of Mom ambassador in a south Charlotte suburb, said that proper vaccination has become “a legacy” in her family. Fleming’s aunt was afflicted with polio when she was six, but Fleming never knew what was wrong with her until she asked her father. It was then that she learned about the polio epidemic of that time and her family history of polio.

Vaccination became important for her family. “Mother talked about getting vaccinated as a child, as one of 11 children, when my grandmother took them to a local park to get vaccinated,” she said. Her grandmother took her children every year as needed, her mother took Fleming every year, and now, Nikki and her husband, Daniel, take their three children ages 3, 6, and 9.

Fleming said that she gives information about vaccinations to members of her community and family whenever she can and that she has even more of a platform as a Word of Moms ambassador. “I just continue to encourage moms and families in the community to make sure that they obtain as much information as they can.,” she said. “There are a lot of resources available, and that link is one of them. Have conversations with your healthcare providers. Awareness is a big thing: when you’re aware and informed, you have information that empowers you.”

Dolan said that while children are often targeted for vaccines, everyone should get them. Pregnant women are especially at risk. “For measles, get the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine,” she said, adding that all vaccines should be up to date. “Take stock of where you are with your vaccinations, and then get what you need. The important message is for adults to get it and say ‘where am I?’ Vaccinations are not just for children. If you did it for your kids, do it for yourself.”

For more information on vaccines and keeping families healthy, visit the Word of Moms campaign website at