The recent outbreak of Measles in the United States, that turned Walt Disney‘s Happiest Place on Earth into the measles kingdom, is raising questions about the efficiency of the National Healthcare System.
But in fact, the largest U.S. measles outbreak in recent history isn’t the one that started in December 2014 at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California; it happened months earlier in Ohio’s Amish country, where 383 people fell ill after unvaccinated Amish missionaries traveled to the Philippines and returned with the virus.
And Americans are asking themselves, “How could there be an epidemic of a desease that was supposed to be eradicated decades ago?”
No one knows exactly what triggered this Disney-linked measles outbreak, but officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it was most likely thanks to an overseas traveler visiting Disneyland Park in California late last year while infectious.
But, when talking about measles prevention, the USA should look into one of the best immunization systems in the world. It is just down the border.
Since January the 1st, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 84 measles cases in 14 states.
Only 2 have been reported at the same period in México.
Both were imported. Both were from the USA. Both were unvaccinated patients.
México has had not a single case of autochthonous measles since 1996 and is about to be recognized by PAHO as a measles-free country.
An aggressive policy that works.
México is a developing country, which has come a long way in terms of health.
While its universal healthcare coverage is still being tuned up, the vaccination policy, with more than 35 years of been implemented, has proved to increase the survival rate of children and adults.
The under-5 mortality rate (the number of children under 5 years of age which die from every 1000 live born) has dramatically decreased since 1980, from 51 to almost 13. This is still a large number if compared to 7 in the USA or 4, which is actually, the goal of wellness for a fully developed country.
As shown in the table below, during the last 35 years, an aggressive vaccination strategy has been implemented, besides the obvious sanitary and nourishment improvements.
Which is the secret behind the success of México’s vaccination policy?
Basically 3 features:
1) It is Universal: By law, everybody in México has the right to have access to vaccines.
2) It is Free: In México everybody can and will have free vaccines. You can always pay for them with your private physician, many people prefer that instead of attending to the crowded public health services; however, there’s no restriction for asking for free vaccination.
As a matter of fact, in the so-called “National Health Days”, there are mobile vaccination brigades spread countrywide. In some areas, this brigades are located as near as 3km from another one, and they vaccinate every child, elder, pregnant woman or at-risk adult who attend.
3) It is Mandatory: Every registered Mexican child is granted a “National Vaccination Card” (which is actually a 3 page booklet), where their vaccination history has to be registered.
A complete vaccination record, shown and validated in the National Vaccination Card is mandatory for being enrolled in public schools, as well as the most majority of private ones.
With 14 preventable diseases included, México has one of the most complete vaccination schemes in the world.
These are the most important goals of Mexico’s immunization system:
Zero Measles cases from México since 1996. The only few cases reported, have been imported (from unvaccinated children living in the USA).
Polio was eradicated 23 years ago
Neonatal Tetanus has been eliminated (according to WHO definition)
Zero cases of:
- Acquired Rubella in 2011
Congenital Rubella since 2006
Diphtheria since 1991
Haemophilus influenzae type b in children under 5 since 2008
Haemophilus influenzae type b Meningitis in children under 5 since 2009
México could be a developing economy, but it has proved efficacy in terms of health and immunization policies. Dr. Julio Frenk, a former Health Secretary of México, and one of the main promoters of the actual Mexican vaccination scheme, became Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.
With a current measles outbreak in the USA which could easily become a prelude of future potential epidemics, and a stubborn antivax movement, may be it’s time to look into some good practices from the neighbors down the border.
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