Chicago announces new vaccine policy among youth at Pilsen migrant shelter

CHICAGO — The Chicago Department of Public Health is taking new steps to contain a citywide outbreak of measles.

As the number of measles cases continues to grow, city and health officials are encouraging residents of a Pilsen-area migrant shelter to receive a second dose of the MMR vaccine.

Dr. Cynthia Ambler, with Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, says that in all her years as a pediatrician, she’s never seen such a high count of measles cases in the community.

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“There’s a lot of different things going on where we have new people coming into our community that we may not know their vaccination status or they may not have had access to the vaccine and I think there’s still some vaccine hesitancy,” Ambler said.

The state of Illinois has so far logged 31 cases of measles as of this writing, marking the first time in nearly a decade that the state has seen cases in the double digits.

“This is a bad virus and its really contagious,” Ambler said.

On Monday, the City of Chicago announced changes to its vaccine policy. The policy requires kids to get a second dose of the vaccine due to an increase in measles cases among youth at the Halsted shelter.

“So, if someone has one vaccine, they are likely 92-93% protected,” Ambler said. “If you get your second vaccine, it’s up to 96-97%.”

Dr. Ambler is not associated with the City of Chicago but remains an expert on childhood diseases and vaccines.

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“Anyone over the age of 12 months, we recommend the first dose as soon as you come in for that 12-month checkup,” Ambler said. “In the community that’s being affected, they recommend a second dose 28 days later. In the standard community we recommend second doses between 4-6 years of age.”

The new policy is expected to impact about 50 kids at the shelter. The second dose will be given 28 days after the first dose is received, which Dr. Ambler says is perfectly safe and not unheard of.

“It’s a really good vaccine and most of us as adults are still immune to measles because of the vaccinations we had as children,” Ambler said.

She says the city is making the right call.

“It gets spread really farther than most viruses and that’s why we say, “This is a big one, this is one we really want to try and contain,'” Ambler said.

The city says about 4500 migrants have received the measles vaccine since the first case was identified, and administering those doses will continue.

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