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Measles vaccines OK locally; outbreak in Washington state

The State of Alaska issued a health advisory last week about Measles in the Pacific Northwest, and a private clinic in Fairbanks reported a localized shortage of Measles vaccine. As of today, public and private clinics and pharmacies have the vaccine in stock. 


It should be said at the top that there is no Measles in Alaska now.

“There are no cases right now.”

Kim Spink, a Nurse Epidemiologist for the State of Alaska, says Alaska issued Public Health Advisory on January 29, about the Measles Outbreak in Washington State and some parts of Oregon. As of yesterday, there were 50 cases of Measles in King and Clark Counties. Read the advisory here:

“Certainly Washington is a state that a lot of Alaskans travel back and forth to, so we listed that. We actually have a public health alert. We specifically talk about Washington and Portland, Oregon.”

Shelly Foint Anderson of the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center says Interior Alaska children are safe, as there is a guaranteed supply for pediatric use. A State of Alaska program called Vaccines for Children, or VFC, distributes the Measles, Mumps, Rubella combination vaccine to medical centers in Alaska.

It’s worth noting that many private clinics have two pools of vaccine… one they purchase for patients who can pay, and that batch from VFC, which can only be used on pediatric patients who receive Medicaid or are uninsured.

Tanana Valley Clinic, the largest private clinic in Alaska’s Interior… treats about 115,000 patient encounters each year, and has immunized thousands of children. They ran short of the purchased vaccine last week.

“Being that this is a childhood disease, our main focus is addressing that through the pediatric program, 0-18 years of age. And we are always well, well covered. And for adults, generally speaking, the actual demand ends up being less than 100 per year.”

Joseph O’Connor is the interim Practice Administrator at Tanana Valley Clinic. He says their inventory of pediatric vaccine is fine and a new order of purchased vaccine came in yesterday and they are stocked again.

Sara Knight, the Occupational Medicine Coordinator at Steese Immediate Care, says they don’t deal with a lot of kids, and they haven’t had a lot of requests for the Measles, Mumps Rubella or MMR shots.

“I order the vaccinations and medications. We have MMR in stock.”

Fred Meyer and Safeway Pharmacies both have the vaccine in stock.

Measles starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Measles is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing. In the U.S. most children are vaccinated before 18 months of age. Many older adults have had the disease. It is tracked by the Centers for Disease Control.

Foint-Anderson, with the Public Health Center says Measles is, yes, only an airplane ride away, but it is rare, and she is much more worried about flu. There are more cases of Influenza in Alaska and the US than Measles, and Influenza can also be deadly. She encourages patients to get a flu shot, even this late in the winter, when that disease is at its peak.