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Doctors' group offers free measles vaccines in Philadelphia to fight outbreak

A group of doctors in Philadelphia is offering free measles vaccines on the heels of an outbreak in the city.

There have been eight confirmed cases of the disease since late December, all among unvaccinated people, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The first case occurred among a child who was admitted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in December. At least three other unvaccinated children were exposed at the hospital and contracted measles, according to the city's Department of Public Health.

MORE: MMR vaccine rates are lagging amid a rise in measles cases. Experts blame a discredited study.

Some of the initial patients went to day care instead of following quarantine instructions and exposed other children, health officials said.

In response, The Black Doctors Consortium is holding a pop-up clinic in northern Philadelphia to administer the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, free of charge.

The vaccine will be "provided to unvaccinated children and adults. We will also test you if you've been exposed to measles & you're not sure if you're protected (immune)," the group wrote in a post on Facebook.

PHOTO: A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is seen in Mount Vernon, Ohio, May 17, 2019. (Paul Vernon/AP)
PHOTO: A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is seen in Mount Vernon, Ohio, May 17, 2019. (Paul Vernon/AP)

Vaccines will be distributed at the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity. No identification is required and there will no out-of-pocket cost, the group said.

The city's health department is also hosting additional free vaccination sites for residents, but requires participants to provide either an ID or a piece of mail with an address to qualify them as proof of residency.

Measles is a very contagious disease, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying every individual infected by the virus can spread it to "up to 9 out of 10 people around him or her" if they are unprotected, including not wearing a mask or not being vaccinated.

Complications from measles can be relatively benign, such as rashes, or they can be much more severe, including viral sepsis, pneumonia and brain swelling.

In the decade before the MMR vaccine became available, approximately three to four million Americans fell ill every year, 48,000 people were hospitalized, and between 400 and 500 people died each year among reported cases, according to the CDC.

The CDC says anybody who either had measles at some point in their life, or who has received two doses of the MMR vaccine, is protected against measles.

MORE: Risk of measles outbreaks growing as 22 million infants miss 1st vaccine: Officials

One dose of the measles vaccine is 93% effective at preventing infection if the recipient is exposed to the virus and two doses are 97% effective, according to the CDC.

In Philadelphia, at least 93% of children are fully vaccinated against measles by age six, according to the health department. However, experts say 95% of children are required to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, meaning enough people are protected against a disease to the degree that it is unlikely to spread.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the U.S., thanks to a highly effective vaccination campaign, but outbreaks have popped over the last few years in unvaccinated pockets of the country.

Between November 2022 and February 2023, 85 children were sickened with measles in Ohio, 80 of whom were unvaccinated.

In California, an unidentified person with measles who visited Disneyland caused an outbreak, infecting 125 people between December 2014 and February 2015.

Doctors' group offers free measles vaccines in Philadelphia to fight outbreak originally appeared on abcnews.go.com