Minnesota, a leader in health care, needs to improve vaccination rates
India Ampah holds her son, Keon Lockhart, 12 months old, as pediatrician Amanda Porro M.D. administers a measles vaccination during a visit to the hospital. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Minnesota rightly prides itself on having some of the best health care in the country, and we often lead the nation in many key measures of health. But as a Reformer article pointed out recently, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a dire warning that we cannot ignore.
According to the CDC, the proportion of U.S. kindergartners receiving state-required vaccines — for illnesses such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and diphtheria — declined from 95% to approximately 93%. For all these vaccines, Minnesota’s kindergartners now have immunization rates below the national average. On the surface, that may not seem like a big deal, but even small dips in immunization rates can lead to disease outbreaks and, most concerning, serious complications for vulnerable Minnesotans. This does not just impact the families who chose to not get vaccinated. It can have serious consequences on the child who cannot get vaccinated because of other health risks.
One of the reasons for Minnesota’s lackluster immunization rates is a current loophole in Minnesota law that allows parents to express a conscientious objection to vaccines. This loophole, which the Legislature can close next year, makes Minnesota’s childhood immunization laws among the weakest in the country. For the health of our children, our communities and our immunocompromised patients in particular, exemptions should only be allowed for medical contraindications.
Vaccines save lives and — as has been demonstrated over and over — they are safe. Minnesota must do better, for the safety of all Minnesotans.
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