For the first time, the state Department of Public Health will release to the public details about how many children at each school in the state are vaccinated.
The release comes amidst the worst outbreak of measles the United States has experienced since it was eliminated 19 years ago. There have been over 700 confirmed measles cases in the U.S. so far this year, including three in Connecticut.
Connecticut has one of the highest immunization rates in the country. According to figures from DPH, 98.2 percent of kindergarteners and seventh graders were immunized in the 2017-2018 school year.
But more and more, Connecticut parents are opting out of vaccinating their children using the religious exemption statute in Connecticut law. According to the DPH, in 2018 1,255 unvaccinated children were allowed to attend public school in Connecticut under the religious exemption law, compared to 912 in the 2012-2013 school year
DPH has always kept numbers on unvaccinated children, but has only publicly released them on the statewide and county level. Starting Friday, DPH will make public for the first time vaccination rates for every public or private school in the state that has more than 30 students.
In a letter to school superintendents, medical advisors, school nurses and supervisors, DPH commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said the reason for the school-level data is two-fold. First, the information can be used by DPH to focus on communities with unusually high numbers of unvaccinated children.
Coleman-Mitchell wrote that the findings “may lead to increased engagement and focus on increasing immunization rates to reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Secondly, Coleman-Mitchell said releasing school-level information will be helpful for parents, especially for the parents of children who are not vaccinated because of a weakened immune system due to illness or chemotherapy. Those students are particularly vulnerable to the measles, especially in a school with a higher than usual number of unvaccinated children.
Coleman-Mitchell wrote, “consequently, this information bears special importance to the parents of such children, who may wish to access information about their child’s school vaccination rates for their child’s protection.”
DPH said the data will not include information about individual students.
You can see the school-level data beginning Friday at 9 a.m. on the DPH website, at portal.ct.gov/DPH.
This story first appeared on May 2, 2019 at WNPR.org