7 On Your Side Investigates Measles: If my kids are vaccinated do I need to worry?

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The worst measles outbreak to hit the U.S. in nearly 30 years has reignited the vaccine debate and also heightened questions from parents about the effectiveness of vaccines.

"I mean we want to make sure our kids are protected," said Cheryl Apostle, a mother of two in Westchester County.

Many parents, especially those who have chosen not to vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons have asked why the community should care if their children are not vaccinated.

Some of the questions asked of Eyewitness News on social media include:

"If everyone is so sure vaccines work, then aren't they protected?"

"Why are you so scared of the unvaccinated?"

"I guess your vaccinates don't work unless everyone is forced to get it?"

In response to those questions, we went to Dr. Roberto Posada, an infectious diseases expert at Mount Sinai, for answers.

"That's a common misconception," Dr. Posada said. "Vaccines are highly, highly effective, not 100%. There are still some people that are not going to respond to the vaccine, and are going to be at risk."

As an example, in New York City, during this latest measles outbreak, health officials said one out of every 20 people who caught the measles had been fully vaccinated and about one out of every five had been partially vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

Then there are those who can't vaccinate for health reasons.

Nicki Chintala's daughter Bailey Lynn was born with a spinal defect and other health concerns that have compromised her immunity and left her unable to handle live vaccines.

"I'm terrified," Chintala said. "She could very well die from it (measles). You're decisions now affect my child and I'm not happy about it."

Dr. Posada said cases like Bailey Lynn's make it even more important that those who can receive the measles vaccine.

"Remember we need 95% of children or 95% of all people to be vaccinated against measles in order to prevent the spread of measles," Dr. Posada said. "If you add people that just prefer not to vaccinate their children for other reasons, then you are really putting the whole community at risk."

According to the New York State Department of Health, roughly 15% of children with exemptions from immunizations in the 2017/2018 had a confirmed medical reason to opt-out. The remaining 85% did not.

To learn more about vaccination rates in the tri-state area and around the country, Eyewitness News has built an interactive vaccine tracker as part of an ABC owned Television Stations collaboration mapping vaccination rates reporting by thousands of schools.

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