Connecticut has the highest vaccination rates among children, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, which analyzed data from the National Immunization Surveys in 2015, showed that Connecticut beat out all 49 other states with an 80.6 percent coverage rate for the seven most highly recommended childhood vaccines. This figure was significantly higher than the national rate of 72.2 percent.
Though vaccination varies across states, the statistics reflect consistent rates from previous years, said Holly Hill, the corresponding author for the study and a member of the Immunization Services Division of the CDC.
“There are some geographic areas that have higher rates than others, but overall we’re doing a good job of getting our kids vaccinated,” Hill said.
Connecticut’s coverage rate for the seven-vaccine series was also much higher than the average New England region coverage of 77.8 percent. Additionally, Connecticut had the highest coverage out of any state for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, with a 97.5 percent coverage rate. The study also showed that nationally only 0.8 percent of all children received no vaccinations at all.
The researchers also looked at differences amongst racial and ethnic groups, urban and rural communities and all levels of poverty statuses, Hill said. She added that certain factors were found to be more important than others in determining whether kids would be vaccinated.
“Most of those [differences] tend to go away when we adjust for poverty status, so we feel like poverty is the most important variable,” Hill said. For geographic differences, “it certainly could in part be the proportion of kids living below poverty level in a particular state,” she added.
Connecticut’s high coverage rate could also be attributed to the state’s legal guidelines for vaccination exemption, as children can only be exempt from vaccination for medical or religious reasons in Connecticut, not for philosophical ones. For religious exemptions, an additional form with a signed acknowledgment from an outside entity, such as a school nurse, judge or town clerk, must be included. This requirement was put in place in 2015. For Chihiro Kato, a Connecticut resident and mother to a 13-month old, the CDC’s findings about Connecticut’s high vaccination rates carried positive connotations.
“I think [vaccinations] are very important in order to not to have a very serious disease,” said Kato.
Still, this news was not as well received by groups in Connecticut that advocate for fewer vaccination requirements. Nathan Wright, a member of the ThinkTwice: Global Vaccine Institute, said it is impossible to tell whether a high immunization coverage rate is a positive outcome without first considering infant mortality rates and other measures of child health and well-being.
Elissa Diamond-Fields, a volunteer with Health Freedom Action Connecticut and a Stamford chiropractor, added that while Connecticut has always had a high rate of immunization coverage in the past, there should be more room for parents to opt out of having their children get vaccinated. Having only medical or religious exemptions mean that parents have to choose to either have their child get all or no vaccinations, she said.
“Every state should have a philosophical exemption because there is no medical procedure or product that should ever be put forward without the potential to opt out,” Diamond-Fields said.
The seven vaccines in this study were DTaP, Poliovirus, MMR, Hib, HepB, Varicella, PCV, HepA and Rotavirus.