JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For weeks, Hepatitis A has been on the rise in multiple states, including Georgia and Florida. The Department of Health issued a warning after nearly 3,000 cases were reported in Florida just this year, reminding people that it can be a deadly disease, but is preventable with a vaccine.
Meanwhile, the country is currently experiencing its biggest measles outbreak in nearly three decades, for which the modern vaccine is 97 percent effective.
This month doctors are reminding families to not just get their kids vaccinated, but to do it themselves too.
In February, this concerns escalated so much that the World Health Organization described vaccine hesitancy as one of the “biggest global threats of 2019."
Jacksonville family nurse practitioner Jennifer Hickman isn’t hesitant when it comes to defending vaccines and the stigmas associated with them.
"One of people’s biggest concerns is autism," she said. "There's absolutely no medical-based proof that vaccines cause autism."
Hickman’s stance on the matter is seconded by the CDC.
Hickman believes concerns over autism should be rerouted to avenues that are more relevant to the disorder.
"it’s a sensory and processing disorder and nowadays in 2019 what does every kid have access to? They have access to iPhones, some sort of smart device, tablets, kindles. So there is constant sensory over-stimulation."
As she works to dispel fears, Hickman says it’s technology that often makes it more difficult.
"Medical providers are more undermined than they ever have been," said Hickman. "Nobody goes to the airport, jumps on the plane and walks up to the pilot and says I think you should do this and that because I googled it and I know more than you do."
She says everyone should have the power to make their own choice on vaccines but as soon as they step in a public setting or send an unvaccinated child to school they’re creating a "public health hazard".
"These vaccines are treating illnesses that are proven to be fatally epidemic," she said. "As the vaccination rates have declined, we’ve seen these diseases start to resurface."
The Duval County School District released a statement on this issue:
DCPS takes school and community health seriously, and we encourage families to adhere to the recommendation to vaccinate students in accordance with Florida Statute 1003.22(4). Vaccinations can help decrease the rates of common childhood and adult diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria, influenza, among others, which are highly contagious and are particularly dangerous to very young children who have relatively low resistance to infection. While the district recognizes the right of the parent to choose to opt out due to religious or medical reasons, we will continue to work with and support the efforts of the Florida Department of Heath Duval County to improve the immunization rates of our students and provide information and resources to families to assist them in making the right decision for their students based on their unique circumstances.
You can find a list of required vaccinations by clicking here.