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Public Health Experts Raise Alarm Over South Florida Measles Outbreak

Florida State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo
Florida Department of Health
Florida State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo

Florida - Tuesday February 27, 2024: Florida is counting more cases of measles as the state's surgeon general defies federal guidelines and declines to urge people to vaccinate their children, according to reporting by WLRN in Miami and other South Florida print and broadcast media.

According to a report in the Miami Herald today, the state of Florida has reported that another child has been diagnosed with measles in Broward County. That is the ninth confirmed measles case in that county over the past ten days, and it raises the total number of measles cases reported in the state to 10, counting the additional case in Polk County.

WLRN reports that at least six of the children infected with measles in Broward are students at Manatee Bay Elementary, a Weston public school that enrolls children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Health News Florida published a story by KFF Health News reporter Amy Maxmenwho reported last week that Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo had sent the parents of students at Manatee Bay Elementary a letter granting them permission to send unvaccinated children to school.

Ladapo's letter emphasized how contagious measles is and how effective the measles vaccine is in preventing the disease. However, he added that the Department of Health “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” The letter contradicts advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Scott Rivkees, Florida’s former surgeon general who is now a professor at Brown University, is quoted by WLRN as saying - “This is not a parental rights issue,” said D “It’s about protecting fellow classmates, teachers and members of the community against measles, which is a very serious and very transmissible illness.”

Most people who aren’t protected by a vaccine will get measles if they’re exposed to the virus. This vulnerable group includes children whose parents don’t get them vaccinated, infants too young for the vaccine, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and others who don’t mount a strong, lasting immune response to it. Rivkees estimates that about a tenth of people in a community fall into the vulnerable category.

Dr. Thresia Gambon, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics told WLRN - “I don’t know why the health department wouldn’t follow the CDC recommendations, Measles is so contagious. It is very worrisome.”