Measles, Childhood Immunizations, and Washington State


  • Large outbreaks of measles have happened in Washington State, due to fewer people being vaccinated against measles
  • Measles is not only a childhood disease. Adults can also get measles
  • Complications from measles are dangerous and can lead to long-term illness, disability and even death
  • Families need to know about measles complications and that vaccines protect not only their family but other people.

Full Article:

Prior to the COVID 19 outbreak in 2019, Washington State experienced several large outbreaks of measles. Why is that an issue? Measles is a virus that is preventable through immunization (getting a vaccine) and was almost completely eliminated in the United States by 2000. This changed when a social movement popularized the idea that immunizations were not needed and that requiring them restricted people’s choices. Because measles and other viruses had been mostly eliminated, younger families were not aware of the medical risks of so-called “childhood” illnesses, especially on the adults in their lives.

Measles is highly contagious, even more so than COVID, and can quickly sweep through a school or a community space such as a daycare center, a church, or at a social event. Unvaccinated people at these places or events have a high chance of getting measles. Why is this a problem? While the majority of individuals recover from measles with little to no health impact, complications may cause severe long-term illness, disability, and even death. Some of those conditions include hearing loss, encephalitis (which is fluid pockets and pressure build up on the brain), and pneumonia. If you have a child or family member who is already at high risk for virus or disease, the fact that viruses like measles, mumps, and whooping cough are on the rise again can be very concerning.

The COVID shutdown disrupted a lot of things and one of these was routine childhood wellness checks and immunizations. Some families have not caught up on what was missed during the shutdown. For some other families, the push back against COVID vaccinations extended to other vaccinations and their children are not vaccinated against viruses like measles.

Measles vaccinations typically are done with the first dose at 12 to 15 months and the second between ages 4 and 6. If your child or family members have not been fully vaccinated it is easy to request vaccination. Most clinics have it on hand and it is covered through most insurance plans, even for adults because of the potential health impacts. If you are an adult and have a question about coverage, call your insurer to check. If you are on Medicare, Part D covers this vaccine. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan which includes drug coverage, it’s a good idea to check with your insurer on coverage. This can be one way to stay ahead of the game by keeping yourself and those around you healthy and strong.

The Washington State Department of Health has a link to the CDC’s easy-to-understand chart of  immunizations by age in well baby or child checkups, with a list of diseases preventable by vaccines. If your family does not have access to well child care or you are new to the United States, Community Health Centers, your county Department of Health, or even pharmacies where you can get flu and COVID shots can let you know where you can go to ask about getting up to date on measles and other vaccinations.

Willa Decides to Get Vaccinated

The decision to be vaccinated or when to mask can be confusing for anyone but for and individual that experiences anxiety, Autism, depression, or an Intellectual or Developmental disability the confusion around these decisions can be even more difficult. Willa experiences both High Functioning Autism and severe anxiety and this is a look into how she and her friends came to their own decisions based on learning about vaccinations and masking then talking together on what they felt is right for themselves and safe for the others around them.

Below are two different versions depicting Willa’s comic page in video form.

Video #1 is a video without narration:

Video #2 includes narration:
*Please note, you can view Spanish subtitles by clicking on the cog on the lower right hand of the video, choose subtitles and then click on Spanish!

Comic page about Willa a character that decides to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus
Comic page about Willa a character that decides to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus in Spanish

Click to see the comic above in PDF form.

Full text for this comic page:

Willa: Guys, I’m kinda freaking out.

Willa’s Friend: Why Willa? What’s wrong?

Willa: The convention we’re going to has a vaxx card and mask policy and I’m unvaccinated.

Toni: WHAT?!

Willa: Getting vaccinated is scary…and the clinics are intimidating, and I’m scared of needles, and this vaccine came out much quicker than the others, so it’s probably rushed…

Willa’s Friend: Willa it’s important for you to get vaccinated. You have bad lungs, right? So, you’re extra at risk. And the reason why the vaccine came out so quickly in comparison to the others is because it got the funding to be mass produced quickly because it was a global issue. The same amount of time went into researching the COVID vaccine as any other vaccine. It’s completely safe.

Willa: Oh, Okay. That makes-

Toni: Wait, what about me? Why do I have to wear a mask? I’m vaccinated and it’ll ruin my cosplay!

Willa’s Friend: Actually Toni, COVID – 19 is so nasty that getting vaccinated doesn’t give you a 100% chance of not catching the virus. It makes you far less likely to catch it. And if you do, it makes your symptoms much less severe. So, it’s still important to mask to protect the more vulnerable people around you.

Toni: Oh!

Willa’s Friend: So, what are we going to do?

Willa: Get Vaccinated.

Toni: And wear a mask.

COVID Considerations for Families to Plan for Fall 2022

A Brief Overview

  • Free COVID vaccinations are available for adults and for children as young as six months.
  • Washington State does not require students to be vaccinated against COVID to enroll for school in the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Local school districts establish their own policies and procedures for health and safety and illness response.  

Full text of video

Over a million Americans have died of COVID, and transmission rates  in Washington State remain high as we head into the 2022-23 school year.

Individual school districts decide what restrictions and policies to put in place for students, teachers, and staff. Families can ask their school district for specific information about safety measures and what to do if a student is ill or exposed to someone who is ill or testing positive for COVID.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, OSPI, provides guidance and suggestions for school staff and families on its COVID-19 Resources Page.

Whether to vaccinate your children remains a personal choice. The Washington State Board of Health has the authority to require COVID-19 immunization for children in K-12 schools but has not done that, as of Summer 2022.

Although not responsible for deciding whether to require vaccines, the state’s Department of Health,, is a place to get current information and recommendations.

What protections against COVID are there for children and teens?

The federal government is providing COVID-19 vaccines free of charge to everyone living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status.

Free vaccinations are available to people 6 months and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, has approved the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations for toddlers, children, and teens.

Here are three ways to find out how and where to get vaccinated for free:

  1. Search
  2. Text your ZIP code to 438829
  3. Call 1-800-232-0233

Children and teens ages 5 through 17 are advised to get a third “booster” dose of the vaccine if they have moderate or severe difficulties with their immune system.

All employees in educational settings are required to be fully vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption. OSPI provides more information about that requirement in a document that includes Frequently Asked Questions.

The Washington Department of Health has created Requirements and Guidance for minimizing transmission of COVID in schools and childcare settings, including isolation of anyone who shows symptoms of COVID.

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