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5 Things Nurses and PAs Can Do to Stem the Spread of Measles

To stop the current measles outbreak, educating people about vaccine safety is crucial—and nurses and PAs have a unique platform to do so.

Since January 2021, the CDC has recorded more than 700 measles cases in 22 states, the largest number the U.S. has seen since 1994. The MMR vaccine eliminated measles from the U.S. in 2000, but it’s begun to resurface in more significant numbers because of the growing anti-vaccine movement. Some 70 percent of cases in the current outbreak were in non-immunized patients. According to the CDC report, its epicenter is in New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities, where misinformation about the MMR vaccine is rampant. 

Educating people about the importance of vaccines is crucial to stop the spread of the highly contagious and life-threatening disease. Nurses and PAs, who work with patients all day long, have a powerful platform to do so, says Maggie Venzke, NP, associate professor at George Washington University’s School of Nursing. 

Here are a few ways nurses and PAs can get involved.

Ask patients about their immunization status whenever possible

Naturally, patients who haven’t been vaccinated have a higher risk of developing measles, and non-immunized adults don’t always know they didn’t receive both doses of the MMR vaccine. However, during an outbreak, receiving that second dose is extra important, Venzke says. So encourage your patients to meet this mark by informing them that getting an extra MMR shot is safe for most adults.

Encourage parents to follow the CDC’s immunization schedule

The CDC has mapped out precisely at what age infants and children should get which vaccines, and following this schedule to a tee provides the most effective protection. Nurses and PAs in primary care practices and pediatricians’ offices already counsel parents about staying on track, Venkze adds. If you’re an HCP who works with parents in another type of facility, consider bringing it up if you have time.

Talk to patients and their parents about vaccine fears

If you encounter resistance in any of the previous two scenarios, you can discuss the safety of vaccines and their effectiveness in a non-confrontational way. The American Academy of Pediatrics has excellent resources for care providers, Venkze suggests. The AAP’s top tips are:

  • Allow parents to express their concerns. Reaffirm their correct views and modify misconceptions.
  • Establish a connection by talking about your own experience with vaccines.
  • Stress the number of lives saved by immunizations and how contagious measles is. For example, up to 90 percent of non-immunized people who come in contact with an infected person will get it, Venzke explains.

Share medically accurate resources about vaccines

Especially during an outbreak, healthcare facilities should have resources for parents and patients to combat the anti-vaccine propaganda spreading rapidly in many communities. The CDC’s VISs, or vaccine information statements, are invaluable resources, says Venkze, as are the handouts available through the Immunization Action Coalition. If you have patients eager to get vaccinated, but your facility doesn’t provide them, you can refer them to

Volunteer with your local health department 

Venzke recommends you contact your local health department and volunteer with its medical reserve corps for nurses and PAs who want to use their expertise outside work. Many of these organizations are looking for people to spread information about the safety and importance of vaccines. What’s more, you might be able to use your experience administering shots at a pop-up vaccine clinic.

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