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Amid Measles Outbreak, Connecticut Releases School-Level Data On Unvaccinated Children

For the first time, the state Department of Public Health has released to the public details about how many children at each school in the state are vaccinated.

Connecticut has one of the highest immunization rates in the country. According to figures from DPH, 98.2% of kindergarteners and seventh graders were immunized in the 2017-2018 school year. But more and more, Connecticut parents are opting out of vaccinating their children using the religious exemption statute in Connecticut law. According to the DPH, in 2018 1,255 unvaccinated children were allowed to attend public school in Connecticut under the religious exemption law, compared to 912 in the 2012-2013 school year.

DPH has always kept numbers on unvaccinated children, but has only publicly released them on the statewide and county level. On Friday, DPH made public for the first time vaccination rates for every public or private school in the state that has more than 30 students.

In a letter to school superintendents, medical advisors, school nurses and supervisors, DPH commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said the reason for the school-level data is two-fold. First, the information can be used by DPH to focus on communities with unusually high numbers of unvaccinated children.

Coleman-Mitchell wrote that the findings “may lead to increased engagement and focus on increasing immunization rates to reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Secondly, Coleman-Mitchell said releasing school-level information will be helpful for parents, especially for the parents of children who are not vaccinated because of a weakened immune system due to illness or chemotherapy. Those students are particularly vulnerable to the measles, especially in a school with a higher than usual number of unvaccinated children.

Coleman-Mitchell wrote, “consequently, this information bears special importance to the parents of such children, who may wish to access information about their child’s school vaccination rates for their child’s protection.”

DPH said the data does not include information about individual students.

There have been over 700 confirmed measles cases in the U.S. so far this year, including three in Connecticut. It is the worst year for measles since it was eliminated from the U.S. 19 years ago.

This post was updated with links to the data.

Copyright 2019 Connecticut Public Radio

Ray Hardman began his broadcasting career at WFSU in Tallahassee Florida where he served at different times as a producer, Operations manager, and Morning Edition host. Ray joined the WNPR staff in 1996, as a reporter and host. He later became the Music Director for WNPR, and in 2002 he went back to his newsy roots as the host of WNPR’s Morning Edition.
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