Not citizens from the great State of Mississippi:
It’s tough being a child in Mississippi. The state has the nation’s worst rates for infant mortality and low-weight newborns. Its childhood poverty rate ranks as the nation’s second worst. Overall, the residents of Mississippi are the unhealthiest in the country.
But there is one notable exception to these dour health stats: Mississippi has the highest vaccination rate for school-age children. It’s not even close. Last year, 99.7 percent of the state’s kindergartners were fully vaccinated. Just 14 students in Mississippi entered school without all of their required shots.
Todd C. Frankel compares Mississippi with other states and looks into personal, religious, and philosophical exemptions that, along with West Virginia, simply aren’t allowed:
Compare that with California, epicenter of the ongoing Disney measles outbreak, where last year almost 8 percent of kindergartners — totaling 41,000 children — failed to get the required immunizations against mumps, measles and rubella. In Oregon, that number was 6.8 percent. In Pennsylvania, it was nearly 15 percent, or 22,700 kindergartners. And each of these states has suffered measles outbreaks in the last two years.
The secret of Mississippi’s success stems from a strong public health program and — most importantly — a strict mandatory vaccination law that lacks the loopholes found in almost every other state.
In the Magnolia state, public health trumps parental choice.
The current measles outbreak, which started in California’s Disneyland and has now spread to several states, might have parents wondering how protected their children actually are in Pennsylvania. The CDC’s last look at vaccination coverage among children entering kindergarten was in 2013 and Pennsylvania did not fare well: only 87% of kindergartners were up-to-date with their MMR vaccine, ranking the state 48th in the nation.
One reason for Pennsylvania’s dismal ranking may be because the State traditionally has allowed a lengthy grace period from the start of kindergarten until vaccines must be given (eight months). This is in line with the AAP’s recommendation that kindergarten vaccines be given between the ages of four and six years old. Other states, however, allow far shorter grace periods.
Many pediatricians now give the kindergarten shots at the four-year-old checkup. With numbers (and outbreaks) like these, maybe we all should.