Each summer, as Lauren Rutkowski and her husband Joel await the arrival of energized, sun-kissed children for their seven-week camp, the couple surveys the canoes and paddleboards, the arts and crafts, the food menus – and every camper’s vaccination records.
Measles outbreaks in the United States continue to grow, rising to 1,044 cases nationwide so far this year. In response, more camp owners and the camping industry are urging families to follow vaccination policies.
Some camps that require all participants to be vaccinated against measles, even if parents have religious objections, have not accepted campers who are not immunized.
These efforts to prevent the measles virus from traveling to and within camps aren’t in vain. Medical experts warn that the virus can quickly spread in close quarters.
‘Camps have definitely taken the stand’
“It’s fair to say that a lot of camps that perhaps were accepting things like religious and philosophical exemptions have made the decision not to accept those,” said Lauren Rutkowski, the owner and director of Camp IHC in Pennsylvania, which is accredited under the American Camp Association and does not accept nonmedical exemptions.
As for the camp, “we always review medical records as they come in, and we really have been double-checking more of the international staff members’ medical forms because different countries have different ways of submitting them,” she said.
What has changed, Rutkowski said, is that Camp IHC often participates in inter-camp sports activities with more than 30 other camps within Wayne County, Pennsylvania, and this year the Wayne County Camping Alliance has required all participants in inter-camp sports to disclose whether they received their measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children get two doses of the MMR vaccine: the first at 12 to 15 months and the second at 4 to 6 years old.