Value Of Measles Vaccine Touted by Ohio County Health Officials

WHEELING — Ohio County health officials think recent outbreaks of measles nationwide underscore the importance of West Virginia’s mandatory childhood vaccinations.

Dr. William Mercer, county health officer, and Dr. John Holloway, president of the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health, spoke about the issue at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The outbreak of measles in states that don’t require vaccinations “reflects how important our vaccines are,” Mercer said. “Vaccination is probably our best public health invention.”

Holloway agreed, noting “how fortunate it is that West Virginia has the mandatory law.”

The board president said other states’ experiences can be used to re-emphasize to legislators that the Mountain State’s current requirements should not be relaxed.

Mercer said measles hasn’t been reported in Ohio County or in the state, but some cases have occurred in Pittsburgh recently. He said the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is recommended for three groups of previously uninoculated people: health care workers, students at post-high school educational institutions and international travelers.

Adults can receive the MMR vaccine at the Wheeling-Ohio County health department’s international travel clinic or its adult clinics.

Administrator Howard Gamble said patients pay the cost of the vaccine.

Mercer said the vaccine costs $70, which is considerably less than the $900 cost of hospital lab testing to determine if a patient is immune to measles, mumps and rubella.

Holloway said people born before 1957 are considered to have a natural immunity to measles.

A two-shot dose of MMR became available to administer in 1989, but West Virginia didn’t require it for schoolchildren until 1993-94, Gamble said. Mercer said the first shot is effective for 93 percent of people, while the second shot has a 97 percent rate of effectiveness.

In other matters, Gamble said Board of Health member Terry Sterling submitted his resignation on April 22. The Ohio County Commission, which appointed Sterling, has been notified of the board vacancy. According to the board’s required composition, county commissioners may name a Republican, Independent or member of the Green Party or Mountain Party to fill the unexpired term.

The board voted to give a 10 percent pay raise to two nutritionists employed by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. Gamble said the raises are recommended by the state Division of Personnel and are to be funded directly from the WIC contract.

Mercer said the health department is partnering with Grow Ohio Valley to expand the Farmacy initiative in which low-income people receive “prescription” vouchers for fresh produce. He said physicians at the Wheeling Clinic are interested in the project; other doctors can contact the health department to participate.

Grow OV’s mobile farmstand will visit the Wheeling Clinic once a week, starting in June. The van makes stops at several local sites during the summer months.

Bids are being sought to purchase a mobile medical unit for the health department’s homeless outreach program and for public health activities, Gamble said. New Life United Methodist Church on Wheeling Island has given $100,000 for the unit.

Holloway and board members Chad Thalman and Thomas Tuttle attended Tuesday’s meeting. Members Laura Wakim Chapman and Elisabeth Slater were absent.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is set for noon July 9 at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

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