Officials hold vaccine exemption rate hearing in Hartford

Officials hold vaccine exemption rate hearing in Hartford

Lawmakers in Hartford discussed religious exemptions for vaccines on Monday.

On Friday the Department of Public Health released another report on school vaccine exemption rates after their first one was widely criticized for being inaccurate. 

Related: Protesters respond to recently updated vaccination exemption rates

There are 100 schools in Connecticut in which fewer than 95% of the students are vaccinated for diseases like the measles, and that has lawmakers talking on Monday about getting rid of the state’s religious exemption to vaccination rules.

For some idea how many people wanted to be a part of this informational hearing on childhood immunizations, there is a hearing room packed with people, an entire other room next door full of people who couldn’t fit in the first one, and a third room with still more people downstairs.

“Right now, we’ve had three cases, we’ve been able to prevent an outbreak from occurring,” testified Connecticut State Epidemiologist Matthew Cartter about measels in Connecticut. He also testified that the state might not continue to be so lucky if childhood vaccination rates do not increase.

Filling those hearing rooms, were dozens of people who want Connecticut parents to be able to say no to vaccinations on religious grounds, wearing stickers and holding signs that read “My God my choice” and “Stop medical tyranny”.

“We are here just testifying on rumors and speculation and we are very concerned about the message that the legislature is trying to put forth right now,” said LeeAnn Ducat, founder of Informed Choice Connecticut.

One reason she is concerned is because there is no actual bill before the legislature. Lawmakers are simply floating the idea of making every child get vaccinated, regardless of religious exemption, because of outbreaks in other states. Even if 95% of kids get vaccinated, it’s enough to create what’s calledherd immunity – the point at which enough people are vaccinated so that the 5 percent not vaccinated are unlikely to encounter the disease, so everyone is safe.

Related: Dept. of Public Health releases updated list of immunization rates by school

“For vaccines, for example, like MMR – Measels, Mumps, Rubella – if you achieve certain levels of vaccination in the popoulation, you can actually provide protection for everyone,” said Dr. Cartter.

Vaccination rates plummeted for years after a study mistakenly linked vaccines to autism. That has been disproven again and again by scientists, but the people in this hearing room have a different view.

The number of vaccinated kids is rising as we hear more and more about national and international outbreaks of diseases like measles. Several Connecticut schools that did not have herd immunity before, have it now.

Prospect Elementary School, for instance, had been at 75 percent and is now it’s up to 97 percent.

Haddam Elementary is up to 96 percent vaccinated.

Many parents are now realizing that false, incorrect, paper published years ago linking vaccines to autism was completely wrong, and they are now deciding to protect their children’s health from these easily defeated threats.

Related: Washington state limits exemptions for measles vaccine

Even though the link to autism has been disproven again and again by scientists, but the people in this hearing room have a different view.

“We have scientific studies, we have flown in  a medical expert to testify as well and we hope to just inform people that there is a lot more information out there that they should be considering before making such serious decisions for their family,” said Ducat.

To give you some idea the emotion involved with this issue, there was a point early on in the hearing where almost the entire room burst into applause. That is against the rules of these hearings, however. They were all told anyone who clapped again would be thrown out by Capitol Police. 


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