Lawmakers hold immunization forum in Westport

Fairfield

WESTPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — Several state lawmakers held a forum Monday night to discuss immunizations and vaccinations.

The event was held by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), who were joined by medical professionals, to discuss immunization and vaccinations in light of recent developments on a state-wide and nation-wide scale. 

Photo of the crowd

Recent data released by the Public Health Department showed that vaccination rates for students across Connecticut fell by 0.6% from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year. 

Related: Religious exemptions for vaccinations increase while immunization rates decrease for students in Connecticut

“This forum will be a great opportunity for the public to hear directly from medical experts and public health professionals about the danger of low immunization rates among children,” Duff said prior to the meeting. “When children are not vaccinated, it jeopardizes their health and safety, as well as the health of others around them. Combating the misinformation on this topic is critical if we are to work towards addressing this issue and this discussion will be a great opportunity to do that.”

“As immunization rates drop on a national scale, preventable diseases including measles, which officials declared eliminated in the United States twenty years ago, are showing signs of resurgence,” officials said in a news release.

One parent said the government shouldn’t be involved in the vaccination decision.

“Vaccinations should be a decision made between a doctor and a patient and a parent, not between a doctor, a patient, a parent, and the government,” said Matthew Paterna.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,241 cases of measles were tracked in the United States — that’s the greatest number seen in nearly 30 years, including three cases in Connecticut.

There was a false report years ago that made some parents afraid that vaccinations could hurt their children instead of help them. That has since been proven all wrong, but it is still causing some parents to withhold vaccinations. To get around school rules requiring vaccinations, they are claiming religious grounds. State lawmakers plan to introduce a bill next year to get rid of the religious exemption.

The General Assembly is expected to start working on the bill getting rid of religious exemptions in February.

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