Although vaccination in Connecticut is still high according to the Centers for Disease Control, some medical professionals are concerned with rising vaccine exemption rates and what it could mean for disease prevalence this year.
For example, in 2017, the Connecticut Department of Public Health reported 75 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which is almost twice as many as there were 20 years ago. The DTaP vaccine, which is mandated for children in Connecticut, is an effective, CDC-recommended immunization that protects against whooping cough. In addition, there were 36 recorded cases of the Mumps compared to zero 10-years earlier. For these reasons, an emphasis on the effectiveness, safety and importance of vaccines is critical at this moment in time.
Since 2003, vaccine exemptions have increased 225 percent. The Connecticut Department of Public Health reported that in 2017, there were 1,513 children entering kindergarten and seventh grade that received an exemption for mandated vaccines compared to 465 such exemptions in 2003. Considering that, in the same time frame, Connecticut’s population has only increased three percent, this is a significant change.
Given the abundance of scientific literature indicating vaccines to be effective at averting once-fatal childhood diseases, and the need for high vaccination rates to protect kids whose medical status prevents their vaccination (also known as herd immunity), it would be irresponsible for a public official or political candidate in 2018 to question the importance of childhood vaccines.
On the campaign trail, political candidates are often asked about the efficacy of vaccinations and vaccine policy. These sorts of questions often arise out of misinformed fears about the potential side effects of vaccines. Rising concerns about vaccines causing autism or other neurological disorders has caused many parents to seek medical or religious exemptions for their children. Although there is an abundance of scientific literature which proves these side effects to be false, it is incumbent upon public figures to assuage these fears and provide informative responses on vaccines.
Vaccinations, and especially mandatory vaccination policies, are critical to the health of our society. In the past 20 years, some have questioned the efficacy of vaccinations, skeptical of the plethora of science indicating they are safe, effective and cost-effective. While we all can agree that our state’s mandatory vaccination policies must be based on solid evidence, parents must trust our governmental public health agencies to ensure this is the case.
As some rare diseases, such as Mumps or Whooping Cough are making a resurgence in Connecticut, now more than ever, public figures have the responsibility to educate questioning parents about the underlying science and dispel any myths that they may hold.
Alexander Urry is a Winston Health Policy Scholar, Federic Bastiet Fellow, and a masters student at Yale University studying Healthcare Management.