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Proposed bill step backwards for state health

Mississippi often finds ourselves near the bottom of health rankings, but there’s one place we’re the best in the nation: childhood immunization rates. Our state’s childhood immunization rate of 99.7 percent is the envy of all other states, but a new proposal in Jackson threatens to undermine this incredible accomplishment.

Immunization is one of the best ways to protect us from disease. However, in recent years, many young children across the nation have fallen victim to outbreaks of measles, pertussis and other preventable diseases because some parents aren’t vaccinating their kids.

Vaccine exemptions have been on the rise in recent decades, and some diseases that had all but disappeared have made dramatic comebacks. When most children are vaccinated, there isn’t anyone to pass the disease on to those who can’t be vaccinated. Non-medical exemptions to vaccinations can create pockets vulnerable to outbreaks, where there is nothing to stop the disease from spreading quickly, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that non-medical exemptions are on the rise, contributing to the spread of these dangerous diseases.

Mississippi lawmakers are considering a law that would let more parents choose not to vaccinate their children for any reason. This almost certainly means that our state will see the formation of clusters of unvaccinated children, who then put at risk children who can’t be vaccinated.

Vaccine exemptions are bad medicine for our children. Our state legislators should reject this wrong-headed bill, and instead keep our children safe and healthy.

 

Dina Ray is the executive director of Market Development at the March of Dimes.