The number of students claiming religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations rose by 25 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19, DPH said Thursday. NHS Employers / via Flickr Creative Commons
A flu shot NHS Employers / via Flickr Creative Commons

Wondering how many children at your kid’s school aren’t vaccinated? If you live in Connecticut, there’s no way to find out.

But that could change under a legislative proposal favored by the state Department of Public Health, which is currently prohibited from releasing data on immunization rates by school.

The state health department already gets data from schools on the number of vaccine-exempt students, the number who have been fully immunized and those who have received some but not all vaccines. The data do not include information that would allow individual students to be identified, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino wrote in testimony supporting the proposal.

“As vaccine exemption rates increase nationwide, there is increasing interest from parents, school administrators, and the media regarding the information collected in the survey,” Pino wrote. “To date, DPH has been restricted from sharing school-level information.”

The proposal wouldn’t require additional data collection, but would let the department release information it already collects, DPH spokeswoman Maura Downes said.

Although the department releases state and county-level immunization information, Pino wrote that it “does not provide the public with the granularity to gauge the vulnerability of an individual school to vaccine preventable disease, at a level where disease transmission occurs.”

And Pino said releasing the school-level data could help parents work with schools to address safety and health care concerns, and could stimulate discussion and education in schools with high rates of children with vaccine exemptions. The data would include both public and private schools.

The proposal drew opposition from Elissa Diamond-Fields, director of outreach and education for Health Freedom Action Connecticut, who said there’s no compelling reason to make the change. “Our state boasts one of the country’s highest school immunization rates at over 98 percent, and there have been no major outbreaks to speak of. Why is this being proposed?” she wrote.

Diamond-Fields said similar legislation had pitted “parent against parent” in California after a recent outbreak of measles. The bill, she wrote, “may lead to discrimination and is designed to incite community pressure on a minority group either practicing a religious belief, or with a medical contraindication to vaccination.”

Separately, Donna Kosiorowski, a school nurse and member of the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut, raised concerns about the prospect of requiring school nurses to provide more information and suggested other ways of getting the data.

The bill is being considered by the legislature’s Public Health Committee.

Andrew Ba Tran/

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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