Mississippi is a poor state combined with a strong religious tradition and is usually at the bottom of the list when it comes to most measures of social well-being. But there is one area where it excels and that is in the vaccination rate where the rates are the highest in the nation. 99.7% of its kindergartners are fully vaccinated, compared with 94.5% nationwide. I discussed the reasons for this anomaly in a post last year. They achieved it by limiting exemptions from vaccination only under very strict conditions, unlike the much looser exemptions in other states.
But now the anti-vaxxers are taking aim at Mississippi, with a massive campaign of phone calls and texts aimed at legislators, trying to force the state to pass a bill that would loosen the exemptions rules.
House Bill 938, narrowly passed by the House and now before the Senate, would loosen the process for medical exemptions from taking childhood vaccines. Mississippi is one of only three states that doesn’t allow religious or philosophical exemptions from vaccines.
The House bill would not provide religious or philosophical exemptions, but would remove the requirement for the Health Department to approve medical exemptions granted by physicians.
State health officials oppose the bill, saying it could pose a threat to public health if many more children are given exemptions. They said children with valid medical reasons not to be vaccinated are already exempted.
Thanks to the efforts of these anti-vaxxers, measles and whooping cough, diseases that should have been eliminated, are experiencing a resurgence in the US.
A comprehensive new study of measles and pertussis outbreaks in the United States suggests that adults’ reluctance or refusal to vaccinate themselves and their children has played a key role in the resurgence of diseases that had been largely eradicated in this country.
In an analysis published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., epidemiologists scoured reports of measles and pertussis outbreaks to glean what role vaccination refusal and hesitance played. They also considered the effect of waning immunity among those who were vaccinated.
In measles outbreaks, the role of the unvaccinated was powerful, they found. Of 1,416 measles cases since the disease ceased to circulate in the United States in 2000, 57% were in people who had no history being vaccinated. About 70% of these patients were unvaccinated due to nonmedical exemptions.
NIH Director Francis Collins discusses the implications of not vaccinating using his own case of measles as an example.