Mahoning County immunization rates are going down to dangerous levels, especially for measles. One woman who lived through the disease in the 1950s said this trend needs to stop.
Denise Seman’s photo album shows a happy 8-year-old child smiling at the camera. Just a few months later, though, smiles were hard to come by. She caught the measles.
“I had a rash. I didn’t feel like I wanted to get out of bed,” she said. “My fever was getting higher, I didn’t want to eat anything, I hurt everywhere. I was completely miserable while I had it and I was sick for probably about two weeks.”
So when the time came to vaccinate her own children, it was a no-brainer.
“It was a horrible experience and one I would never wish on any child,” Seman said. “When I had kids and the vaccine was available, it was definitely, ‘Yes, vaccinate my children’ because I don’t want them to experience what I went through.”
However, more and more children entering Mahoning County schools aren’t vaccinated.
“What has been reported over the past five, six, seven years continues to drop every year. We are down around 85 percent,” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney.
Some people choose not to vaccinate their children due to personal, religious or medical reasons.
Many opposed to vaccines say “herd immunity” will protect them. That’s the idea — enough people have received the vaccine that they will be protected.
However, Sweeney said the rate must be higher than 93 percent for that to work.
She said people are choosing to put others at risk by relying on false information.
“We have eradicated smallpox. We have almost eradicated measles in this country and now with all of the individuals saying they don’t wish to be vaccinated, that they fear there is a danger to it — there is no science behind that. But there is science behind what happens to someone who becomes ill.”
There have been no cases of the measles in Mahoning County since 2005 but Sweeney said if the trend continues, the area could be at risk if the virus arrives here. There haven’t been any measles cases in Trumbull County and Columbiana County hasn’t seen the measles within at least the past five years.