Florida defies CDC, says unvaccinated measles children can go to school amid outbreak

As Florida faces a measles outbreak in at least one school — with 6 cases reported as of Friday — the state’s top health official defied CDC recommendations that have kept outbreaks under control for years.

State Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo wrote a brief memo this week to parents at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, telling them it’s okay to send unvaccinated children to school amid the outbreak. .

The Health Department “is letting parents or guardians make decisions about school attendance,” wrote Ladapo, who was appointed to lead the agency by Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida.

Ladapo’s letter goes against the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which urges keeping unvaccinated minors at home for up to three weeks—the incubation time for measles—or vaccinating them. .

A minor with rashes caused by measles.Bilanol/Getty Images

“It goes against everything I’ve heard and read,” American Academy of Pediatrics president Ben Hoffman told The Washington Post.

This is not the first time Ladapo has openly questioned the CDC’s recommendations. In January, he requested that the application of the Pfizar and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines be suspended, sparking outrage from the scientific community.

Measles—a contagious disease that acts as an indicator of threats from other infectious diseases—is characterized by fever, flu-like symptoms, and an itchy skin rash. It sometimes leads to serious complications such as pneumonia, seizures and brain damage. And in some cases, it can cause death.

Most people who are not protected by a vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the virus. This vulnerable group includes children whose parents do not vaccinate them, babies too young to receive the dose, those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and others who do not develop a strong and lasting immune response.

The CDC recommends that unvaccinated students stay home for three weeks after exposure. Because the highly contagious measles virus spreads through tiny droplets in the air and on surfaces, students are considered to have been exposed simply by being in the same cafeteria or classroom as someone who is infected.

In addition to the six cases reported in Florida, another 26 have been reported to the CDC in at least 12 states so far in 2024. This number is double what was recorded in the same period last year.

(Alert in Texas for cases of measles, a disease so far eradicated in the US)

The cases were reported in Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Minnesota and New York. Specialists have linked the outbreaks to the growing number of parents who decide not to vaccinate their children against measles.

This position of many parents has been caused by the constant and severe misinformation about the safety of vaccines, which increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and has had political overtones.

The CDC earlier this year issued a warning to doctors and health care professionals to be alert to the possibility of more cases of measles.

“The reason there is a measles outbreak in Florida schools is because too many parents have not protected their children with the safe and effective vaccine,” John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill, told the Post. Cornell Medical College.

“And because? Because the anti-vaccine sentiment in Florida comes from the top of the public health chain: Joseph Ladapo,” she criticized.