ROCK ISLAND, Iowa -- The Centers for Disease Control has recorded more than 1,200 cases of measles this year, including nine in Illinois and two in Iowa -- the largest number for any year since 1992.
While none of the cases in Illinois have been reported in the area, Rock Island County health officials have launched a measles campaign to get every child vaccinated.
"Anytime a community has about a 95 or 96% vaccination rate, that will protect the people who are unable to get the vaccination because of medical conditions," Janet Hill, Chief Operating Officer for Rock Island County Health Department said.
"Specifically with measles, babies cannot safely get the vaccine until age one. So anytime you get your vaccine, you are protecting every baby in this community."
The department is offering walk-in immunizations at the clinic every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September.
Most schools in Rock Island County have immunization rates that are at or well above the 95% state standard for "herd immunity," or when enough people are vaccinated to prevent a disease from spreading, even if someone is infected, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Three schools in Rock Island County fell short of the desired 95% for the 2018-2019 school year:
- United Township High School was at 94.57%
- East Moline Christian School stood at 93.88%
- Rock Island Academy at 86.95%
Hill said the county checked with the school nurse at Rock Island Academy and the low percentage of vaccinated people stemmed from inaccurate data or a lag, and the school was found to be in compliance.
East Moline Christian School would not comment at this time.
At United Township, Superintendent Jay Morrow said it's a difficult battle and the school is continuing to reach out to parents through letters and phone calls, while contacting individual students to get their rates above the 95% standard.
A variety of factors could lead parents to not get immunizations for their child, he said, citing access to health care or religious differences.
"There are a few schools, they are smaller and private, that are not quite there," Hill said. "We are working with them to offer our nurses to come in and give vaccinations and we offered education to them also."
She stressed that vaccines have been proven safe and effective for generations.
"People believe that because they haven’t seen something in a while, that it’s not a big deal," she said. "Measles is a really big deal. It causes brain swelling, brain damage and deafness. It’s not just a little rash."
For those who cannot come during Thursday's walk-in hours, Rock Island County is also offering appointments. To set up a time call (309) 793-1955.