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Surgeon general, Ducey share concern over Arizona vaccination rates

(Twitter Photo/@dougducey)

PHOENIX – The “nation’s doctor” made a house call this week to Arizona, a state where health officials have watched exemptions from school vaccinations increase over the past five years.

“[Gov. Doug Ducey] is just as concerned, if not more concerned, about this than than I am,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Thursday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

“It just boggles my mind and the governor’s mind that we’re going backwards on this important issue.”

Arizona ranked in the top five states in exemption rates in 2018.

A summary from the Arizona Department of Health Services for 2017 said 7,066 schoolchildren from kindergarten to sixth grade had been exempted from vaccinations.

Nonmedical exemptions were highest in charter schools.

Public health officials in the Pacific Northwest spent part of January trying to contain a measles outbreak that made at least 35 people sick.

“It only takes one infected person to enter the state of Arizona and cause an outbreak here in this state,” Jessica Rigler, assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM at the time.

The last reported outbreak of measles in the Grand Canyon State was 2016.

“Vaccines are safe, they’re effective and they’re the No. 1 public health intervention of the last century,” Adams said, adding measles was a “completely preventable disease.”

He visited with Ducey, leaders at the state health department and community health workers Tuesday.

“Tourism is a major industry here in Arizona,” Adams said.

He said he saw firsthand how a 2012 measles outbreak affected Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis.

“The last thing you want is to have to quarantine people or to have a major investigation in the middle of a major event.”

The Valley has hosted two Super Bowls since 2008 and the NCAA College Football Playoffs, including the title games in 2011 and 2016, and the men’s college basketball Final Four in 2017.

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