When all of us are immunized, we create a community immunity in which disease can’t get a foothold. Measles, for example, comes into the U.S. on airplanes from foreign countries. In February 2011, an infant caught measles on a trip to India and landed in Portland International Airport before returning home to Washington State. After the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., some Pacific Northwest families drove measles home after trips to see the games. But in Oregon, about 91 percent of 2-year-old children have been vaccinated against this highly contagious disease so we have a strong wall of defense. Despite repeated introduction of measles into Oregon, we have seen no more than 14 cases in any given year since 1991. As long as vaccination rates remain high, the risk to Oregonians is low.
Immunization protects the entire community, but some counties in our state have lower immunization rates. It’s important to remember that the lower the immunization rate, the higher the disease rate and the greater chance for an outbreak. Oregon has long been known as a great spot to vacation. We have incredible recreational and cultural opportunities, from hiking, skiing, windsurfing and fly fishing to drama, music and microbrews. But just one disease outbreak could damage our reputation as a healthy place to visit. An immunized community is a healthy community.