COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The current measles outbreak in Franklin County — the one that has subsequently shut down at least one daycare center this week — is concerning pediatricians all over central Ohio.

Licking County pediatrician Sean Gallagher said Ohio used to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. However, that has deteriorated over the past few decades with the state legislature rolling back vaccine requirements and making it easier for people to obtain exemptions.

“It’s as easy as printing out what amounts to a permission slip, signing it, and your child is able to attend both school and daycare without really any vaccination,” Dr. Gallagher said.

This timeline also corresponds with what has been repeatedly proved to be faulty research incorrectly linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine with autism spectrum disorder.

“It turned out that a lot of his research methods were quite unethical, and he had stock in a competing vaccine, a vaccine seeking to compete with measles, mumps, rubella,” Dr. Gallagher said. “He’s been since disbarred. He no longer can legally practice medicine, [but] that got people that got parents concerned about vaccination.”

The two-dose MMR vaccine is 97% effective against the measles virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is recommended all children receive it.

Before the vaccine was developed, Dr. Gallagher says measles was “one of the biggest killers of children worldwide.”

“This is not a benign illness. Whereas, historically, maybe it was a routine childhood disease because the vaccine didn’t exist for it, and there was nothing that could be done. But we live in the year 2022. We have this very safe, very effective vaccine that works well. It’s been around for 51 years. I would encourage everyone eligible to receive this vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Gallagher added he is especially concerned with this outbreak because contact tracing is not showing a connection between the daycare cases and the other children who have tested positive for the virus in Franklin County, which suggests community spread is present.

Also concerning is how the virus presents initially: high fever, runny nose, and watery eyes.

“The fact that the first few days of measles mimics just about every other kind of routine cold that, you know, we see hundreds and thousands of every cold and flu season. And typically we get to reassure parents that, ‘Guys, it’s OK. This is a virus. It’ll pass … no need to necessarily dramatically change your day-to-day,’ [it] is terrifying that four days later, [kids with measles] are evolving this classic rash and, and we just don’t know until then. That worries me considerably.”

According to the CDC, measles is highly contagious and transmitted through coughing and sneezing. Infected individuals can spread the virus up to four days before becoming symptomatic. And by the time the rash occurs, a person has already been contagious for several days.

CLICK HERE to learn more about and schedule an MMR vaccine in Columbus.