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Lack of Funds Halts Measles-Vaccination Program

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The federal government has run out of money to combat the current epidemic of measles, which has killed dozens of unvaccinated preschool-age children this year, according to federal officials.

Since January, 41 people have died of measles, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, in one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in years. Most of the reported deaths were of unvaccinated children under age 5 who lived in urban areas.

However, the CDC, which funnels money to state and local health departments to pay for vaccinations, has allocated all of the $10 million budgeted this fiscal year for controlling the measles outbreak.

States and localities now must "identify their own resources" to immunize children, said Jeannie Laprebendere, a public-affairs specialist with the CDC.

In addition, President Bush's budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 does not include more money specifically to combat the outbreak.

James Brown, a spokesman for the Public Health Service, said the CDC requested more money for vaccinations to help fight the epidemic, but that the request did not make it into the President's final budget.

Last December, the CDC recommended that children entering school receive a second dose of measles vaccine, which is first administered at age 15 months. (See Education Week, Jan. 10, 1990.)

At that time, Mr. Brown added, "the President's budget was set and ready to go."

Valerie Morelli, associate director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said many states face the same fiscal constraints as the federal government.

"Pushing this off on the states is not going to solve the problem," she said. States may be forced to be selective about which age groups of children are vaccinated first and which receive second doses, she added.

The Senate has passed a supplemental appropriations bill for this year that contains $12 million for emergency vaccine supplies and $23- million for second vaccinations, Ms. Morelli noted. That bill is now before a conference committee.

Cases On The Rise

So far this year, 51 percent more measles cases have been reported to the CDC than during the same period last year. In 1989, 44 people died of measles--the largest number of measles deaths reported since 1972.

Outbreaks have been identified in 82 locations in 25 states. Twelve counties in California, and 61 counties in Texas, have reported outbreaks.

The worst outbreaks have occurred in Los Angeles; Fresno, Ca4lif.; Dallas; and Chicago, according to the CDC

Los Angeles has reported 3,500 cases since the epidemic began in October 1987, predominantly among unvaccinated black and Hispanic preschool-age children living in the central city, the CDC reported.

The many "special clinics" held in the city in the past two years to reach high-risk populations have had no noticeable effect, the CDC reported.

In Fresno, at least eight children of Hmong refugees have died of measles since December 1989.

The epidemic also has struck secondary-school students, college students, Amish communities in the Midwest, migrant workers, and Mexican immigrants, the CDC reported.

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