"Borders can no longer stop diseases, but vaccinations can," says Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Frieden made this remark to reporters last week while stating that a government program launched over 20 years ago to increase vaccinations for low-income children in the U.S. will prevent over 700,000 deaths — however, measles remain a huge problem, with more than 129 cases reported so far this year.
Most of the new cases of measles reported in the U.S. are linked to unvaccinated travelers from abroad. There have been serious outbreaks of the disease in countries like the Philippines, and the first four months of the year have seen more measles cases than any other similar time period since 1996.
In the late 1980s an U.S. measles outbreak involved more than 50,000 cases with over 100 deaths, and prompted the CDC to launch their Vaccines for Children program, which still provides free vaccinations to children whose families are unable to afford them. The program will be expanded under the Affordable Health Care Act, and based on estimates will prevent 21 million hospitalisations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.
Measles from abroad can spread quickly and easily to unvaccinated kids and those too young to be vaccinated. The CDC recommends infants starting at age 12 months should receive two doses of MMR – measles, mumps, rubella vaccine. Infants 6-11 months should receive one dose before any international travel.