DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A health official in Ohio says declining vaccination rates have likely contributed to a measles outbreak within the state.

As of Thursday, Ohio has 82 confirmed cases of measles, 32 of which required hospitalization. All but five of the cases were among children ages 1–5, and none of the patients were fully vaccinated (four had unknown vaccination statuses, and at least 23 of the patients were ineligible for vaccination due to their age, according to the public health department of Columbus).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently reported on studies showing a significant decline in measles vaccination rates among eligible children, noting that around 40 million eligible children throughout the country missed a dose in 2021.

“This decline is a significant setback in global progress towards achieving and maintaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection,” the CDC wrote in November.

Health leaders in Ohio believe the decline is due to myths surrounding the measles vaccine that could still be prevalent.

“The vaccine hesitancy is something that we’re all going to pay dearly for the next several years from the COVID fiasco,” said Charles Patterson, the health commissioner for Clark County Combined Health District.

Some health officials fear the worst is yet to come, believing uncertainty around the COVID-19 vaccine has caused other vaccines, like the MMR dose, to come into question.

Patterson says myths around the MMR vaccine began in 1998, when a now-discredited researcher claimed to have observed a link between the MMR vaccine and the predisposition of children to pervasive developmental disorders. Since that time, his claims have been debunked, and the study was declared unethical.

“That article has since been retracted, the professor who did the research has admitted it was flawed research and just flat out not true,” said Patterson. “There have been at least nine studies since then that have shown there is no causal relationship between MMR and autism.”

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Despite this, Patterson said measles among unvaccinated populations has been a concern for decades.

“In the year 2000, measles was declared gone from the United States,” said Patterson. “Unfortunately, we are starting to see it back now and that’s a huge problem because of the reduction in vaccines that are out there.”