ANNAPOLIS -- Here's a real shot in the arm for Maryland schoolchildren: Gov. William Donald Schaefer and state health officials directed that every child in Maryland entering kindergarten or the sixth grade this fall have two doses of measles' vaccine. Currently, youngsters need only one measles vaccination.
The increased dosage was ordered yesterday after an outbreak of 500 measles cases in Maryland during the past three years -- a jump from the normal three-year rate of 50 to 60 cases.
Health department officials say they have concluded that a single immunization sometimes wears off as children get older, or simply fails to give enough protection for 5 percent to 10 percent of those vaccinated. "What we're saying is, the second shot is necessary," said Maryland Health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini.
The goal is to phase in the double dosage requirement for other grades over the next several years so that by 1998 all children entering Maryland schools will have had two doses of measles vaccine.
Barry Trostel, chief of the health department's Immunization Division, said the measles' vaccine is intended to prevent rubeola, also known as "red measles" or "10-day measles." The disease can lead to ear damage and loss of hearing -- or in more severe cases, to encephalitis, pneumonia, or even death.
Normally, he said, infants are given the measles' vaccination at the age of 15 months.
Mr. Sabatini said the vaccinations will be offered at state health clinics around Maryland. The cost to parents will be based on a sliding scale depending on ability to pay, he said. The extra vaccinations also will be covered under the state's Medicaid program of health care for the poor.
In addition, the vaccine against mumps also is being required for the first time for entry into Maryland schools this September. Although such a step was not previously required, most children have received the mumps vaccine as part of their measles-mumps-rubella shot.
Vaccines for public health clinics are being supplied by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
In an unrelated health announcement, Mr. Schaefer said that Marilyn Quayle, wife of the vice president of the United States, will be the featured speaker at a summit conference on Maryland's cancer problem to be held June 26 at Martin's West.
Maryland has had cancer death rates higher than the U.S. average for over 40 years and currently ranks first among the 50 states.