The city hasn't had a measles case in 10 years and boasts a 99 percent vaccination rate, Leana S. Wen, the city's health commissioner, said in an interview. Nevertheless, the spread of the highly contagious virus among unvaccinated children threatens others who can't be immunized, including those less than one year old and others with medical conditions.
"The most important thing for people to know is that this is a wake up call, that Baltimore is not an island," Wen said. Last month, a suspected measles case involving a 12-month-old child set off an effort to trace the child's contacts before health officials determined that the child did not have the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that this year's measles outbreak, which officials believe started at Disney theme parks in Southern California in late December, had spread to 102 people in 14 states.
Monday's statement adds Wen and the 15 physicians from Baltimore-area medical institutions to the growing chorus pushing back against vaccine skeptics. President Obama and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy have urged parents to vaccinate children against the measles virus. Wen was joined in the statement by senior physicians, most of them pediatricians, from the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and other medical centers and organizations.
"We have to be vigilant. We have to be clear. Vaccines are safe. They are effective," Wen said. "When we as doctors in our region come together and speak with one voice, we are making a statement [about] the health of our community."