• Maria Duaime Robinson

[WBUR - audio] Lawmakers Consider How To Curb 'Hot Spots' Of Low Vaccination Rates

By Carey Goldberg

If her young children are ever at extra risk for contagious diseases because their school's vaccination rate dips too low, Massachusetts state Sen. Becca Rausch wants to know.

The same goes for Rep. Maria Robinson, also a mother.

"All communities have the right to know if they're at risk of contracting one of these deadly diseases that many of us had believed to be completely eradicated, and yet we're seeing pockets pop up all over the country," she said.

Robinson, Rausch and others spoke at a State House press conference this week on behalf of a new bill that would bolster the state's vaccination system. It would require all schools to report their vaccination rates to the state — reporting is currently voluntary — and to notify families if their rate falls short, among other provisions.

With yet another Disneyland measles scare in the news this week, the bill aims to address worrisome trends at both the state and the national level.

Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 96% of kindergartners fully immunized, but vaccine exemptions based on religion are on the rise, with just over 1% of kindergarten students claiming a religious exemption.

The national picture is similar: The overall vaccination rate is high, at about 95%, but the exemption rate has risen slightly to 2.5%, with most exemptions for non-medical reasons, the CDC reported last week.

Then there are the "pockets" of especially low vaccine rates Rep. Robinson mentioned. The CDC found that in Idaho and Oregon, more than 7% of kindergartners have exemptions from at least one vaccine.

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