Monroe County health officials urge parents and doctors to increase vaccination efforts

Feb 5, 2019

With more measles cases in the last month than in the entire previous decade, Monroe County health officials urged parents to take action.

A growing number of parents in the Rochester area – and across the state and country – are choosing not to vaccinate their children, said county public health commissioner Michael Mendoza.

Monroe County public health commissioner Michael Mendoza is joined by Dr. Patrick Brophy, left, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Dr. Cindy Christy, right, of Rochester Regional Health, at a news conference Tuesday urging parents to vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases.
Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

“I’m referring to those who have chosen to accept misinformation, or to adopt so-called ‘philosophical objections,’ instead of accepting well-established scientific evidence, and the overwhelming weight of recommendations from respected health and public health agencies,” Mendoza said.

The recent cluster of seven measles cases in Monroe County is contained, health officials said, but the risk is that if current trends continue, more outbreaks are increasingly likely.

Mendoza and leaders at two other regional health systems said at a news conference Tuesday that lawmakers need to take a close look at New York state’s allowance of religious or philosophical objections.

After an outbreak of measles in early 2015 centered on Disneyland in California, that state removed its “personal belief” vaccine exemption. “That really helped” increase vaccination rates, said Dr. Cindy Christy, the associate chair of pediatrics at Rochester Regional Health.

And Dr. Patrick Brophy, who chairs the pediatrics department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said that “at the end of the day, it is really all about the kids. And vaccinations work. We know it.”

The increase in measles cases across the country is “like déjà vu all over again,” Brophy said.

The disease was common decades ago, but many doctors practicing today have never seen a case. That means they need to be extra vigilant, so they don’t miss a very contagious virus, said Brophy.

Mendoza encouraged parents who are unsure about vaccination to discuss it with their doctor. And he urged doctors to address patients’ concerns. “It’s really understanding where that individual and where that family’s coming from,” Mendoza said. “If I’m seeing a patient in the office, and they disagree with whatever it is that I might be recommending, my job is to try to understand where they’re coming from.”