Recently, we’ve witnessed the first measle outbreak in the USA in decades, and the states are seriously considering putting a stop to the anti-vax movement.
Kindergartens Are Being Used as a Safe-Haven
States are debating whether they should put a stop to Americans not getting vaccinated due to religious, moral, or philosophical reasons. However, the number of school kids who use any excuse is a lot lower than the number of elementary school students who give no excuse at all.
Most of the unvaccinated children from kindergartens were allowed to enroll in school last year, in at least 10 of the states. There were no formal exclusions, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, only 27 states sent out information regarding the groups of unvaccinated children, but this is not nearly enough. Generally, the USA has no idea about the raising issue that the number of unvaccinated children brings.
For some areas, the biggest reason why kids don’t take their shot is poor healthcare access. This also stops them from fighting against all kinds of diseases, but more often than not, the reasons why parents don’t vaccinate their kids are quite trivial, according to many. This can go from religious beliefs to moral convictions.
However, reasons can get even more mundane than this — some people simply forget to visit their doctor, or merely cannot be bothered, says Melissa Arnold. She’s the CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Ohio. According to her, the reasons why so many kids aren’t vaccinated or are unvaccinated is something the public can’t possibly know.
People who work in this industry believe that most of the American children take all of their shots regularly, but the number of the ones who don’t, aren’t tracked. There’s not even a law that requires this from a state.
Due to this, the officials lack crucial information in their hands — which eventually resulted in diseases everyone believed died out, such as measles, to come back.
The Problem Lies in Separation
The CDC has recently started demanding from education officials actually to start making records on the unvaccinated children. Additionally, they are demanding that they send reminders to parents of the children who haven’t taken their shots just yet. But this could become a major issue and an eternal battle between taking care of public health and denying the right for education.
Kate King, a member of the Ohio Association of School Nursing, said that their role as school nurses is to make sure all the children attend school. Excluding any child that wasn’t vaccinated from the class can have far-fetched consequences, according to her.
Just like in the rest of the world, all the 50 states allow any person not to get vaccinated due to medical reasons, and in case the shot would present a danger to their health. However, the CDC is trying hard to fight against religious and philosophical reasons to not vaccinate. They claim that this is the reason for the measles outbreak in 24 states since last year. The estimated number is around 880 measle cases, which is the highest number of cases since the 90s.
Out of the 27 states that keep the records on (un)vaccinated kids for the last two years, Arkansas came first with the highest percentage of unvaccinated individuals. This means that out of all the states, most of the unvaccinated kindergarteners are in Kansas. In Ohio, it was 5,3%, the second highest in the States. On the other end of the spectrum are Hawaii and Georgia, with only 0,2% unvaccinated kids, respectively.
Luckily, Ohio and Arkansas had no diseases outbreaks, but it doesn’t mean that the state officials are not anxious about it. The immunization rate needs to be at least 95% in order for the group to remain immune to any outbreaks.
Considering how Ohio is facing a problem of unvaccinated children, the officials and medical experts are not entirely sure if the state will be able to fight it off. Many of them agree that the situation could go wrong.
In the 27 states that send out reports, the number of unvaccinated children who use exemptions is abysmal to those who don’t. According to these reports, over 60,000 kids’ parents did not give any reason or validation as to why their children remain unvaccinated.
The time period that the states give for the children to get vaccinated can go from a few days to a few months. However, in case a kid doesn’t get a shot, nobody will check in to ask if it did get vaccinated after a couple of months. So in most cases, these children never quite catch up with the rest.
Once this period is over, excluding a child from school can be a dangerous thing to do. This can directly impact their future, their education, and in some areas, even their safety. Some rural city parts can be dangerous for kids who don’t spend their time at school.
For this reason, the state of Pennsylvania reduced the eight-month grace period to only five days. This shorter period will help the country keep records on both of the groups, and also push parents into being more responsible, says Cindy Finley.
The Acting Deputy Secretary for Health, says that they would find out that some children would never catch up right in the middle of the year. These kids then move on to new grades, and so you have generations of unvaccinated kids.
The Anti-Vax Movement Isn’t the Only Problem
Although most of the parents who don’t vaccinate their kids did come as a result of myths how some shots are unsafe, there are other reasons for the rise of unvaccinated individuals. For example, most of the children in Arkansas fall under the health insurance for residents with low-income — the Medicaid. And a lot of residents within Arkansas’ counties can only go to local health departments should they wish to get vaccinated. This means that these residents don’t enjoy the benefits of many doctor’s offices, clinics, and pharmacies.
Only in the state of Ohio last year, 10% of seventh graders went through school unvaccinated.
However, officials try to remain flexible and open-minded. Such is the case of a new family in East Knox who was so busy with moving in that they had no time to schedule the appointment in time. If you take this into consideration, one cannot draw too many lines — it’s essential to understand different family situations, says Steve Larcomb, the superintendent of East Knox local schools.