The issue: Numerous measles outbreaks this year, including in nearby New York, generated alarm about the sometimes deadly disease that by the year 2000 seemed eradicated. But as parents sought exemptions to state laws requiring immunization before children can attend school, measles resurfaced.
In Connecticut, the picture became clearer — and concerning — in May when the Department of Public Health commissioner released to the public a school-by-school look at immunization rates. At the time, we praised the new commissioner, Renee D. Coleman Mitchell, for providing previously confidential information considering the national health scare over the measles outbreak.
What we said: “This is a true public service. Undoubtedly every parent seeing the report, immediately checked their child’s school.”
The report “shows the stunning fact: 108 public and private schools are below the 95 percent immunization rate for measles, mumps and rubella recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The percentage is important. Above that amount is what health officials call a ‘herd’ immunity, which protects the few who might not be vaccinated. Below that amount, however, the highly contagious diseases can take hold. ...
“Immunization is required for school attendance, but the state allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons. ...
“Measles can be prevented. No child should have to endure the disease, or possibly die from it, because of those who refuse to vaccinate.”
— Editorial, May 5, 2019
“Democratic House and Senate leaders months ago asked for Coleman-Mitchell’s advice on whether to repeal the religious exemption for the measles vaccine ... She has yet to respond. ... The leader of Connecticut’s public health should take a position on the health risk. Meanwhile, the public health commissioners in three other states — New York, Maine and Washington — backed legislators in recently eliminating the exemption.
“Legislators should remove the religious exemption; no mainstream religion bans vaccines. Some parents may have worried the vaccines could cause autism, but that decades-old study, since retracted, has been thoroughly debunked.
“Connecticut’s public health commissioner should fulfill her responsibility and do everything she can to protect public health.”
— Editorial, July 25, 2019
Keep in mind: Measles is not a benign childhood disease. For every 1,000 children with measles, one or two will die.
What has happened: On Tuesday, Coleman-Mitchell said she would not be releasing new school-by-school data on immunization rates, citing only three measles cases this year. Her decision is wrong. And a Bristol family’s lawsuit over the information should not override the greater good. Although the statewide immunization rate is 95 percent, individual schools can be much lower and parents have a right to know whether their children are vulnerable.
The latest: Gov. Ned Lamont said late Wednesday afternoon that herd immunity and religious exemptions will be released this week, as well as the school-by-school immunization data once it is verified.
That’s the right direction; lawmakers should also repeal the religious exemption to better protect the public.