Protect Vermont’s School Children from Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Calling All Vermont Families!! – A bill has been introduced in your Legislature that will remove the clause that allows parents to casually check off “philosophical exemptions” as a reason for waiving school vaccination requirements for children in public schools.
If you are from the state of Vermont, we urge you to write to your Senator today to ask that he/she support this important bill (Senate Bill 199 or SB199). Below is a letter sent yesterday on behalf of Every Child By Two. Many of our partner organizations have also sent letters to express their support for this important change. Feel free to borrow from the letter below to create your own letter. You can also call and leave a message in support of SB199 with Senator Claire Ayer who serves as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare at (802) 545-2142
Please also take a moment to add your signature to our petition at Change.org
You can also send your own letter to your Vermont State Senators by using this template
February 17, 2012
Vermont State Legislature
Vermont State House
Montpelier, VT 05633
On behalf of Every Child By Two, I urge you to support Senate Bill 199 as written, which will eliminate the option of requesting a waiver from vaccination mandates for school entry based on a “philosophical exemption”. Every Child By Two (ECBT) strongly supports laws mandating vaccination coverage of school children, secure in the fact that these requirements reduce the spread of deadly, preventable diseases. The founders of ECBT, Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers have been credited with helping to pass the laws in every state mandating vaccination for school children. These laws, enacted in the 1980s, have resulted in the reduction of disease transmission in schools nationwide.
Sadly, a 1989–1991 measles outbreak swept the nation infecting over 55,000 people, causing over 11,000 hospitalizations and claiming the lives of 123 individuals, most of whom were young children and infants. Carter and Bumpers understood that while immunization rates of kindergarten-aged children had reached an all time high by the time of the outbreak, families were under the impression that they could wait until their children were of school-age to fully vaccinate them, a mistake that cost the lives of too many young children. They officially formed ECBT in 1991 with the goal of ensuring the timely immunization of every child by the age of two. These women have spent the past two decades visiting every state in the nation (most more than once) to enlist the support of elected officials and encourage the development of local coalitions dedicated to improving childhood immunization rates.
We applaud Vermont’s consideration of the removal of “philosophical exemption” options from school vaccine mandates as it will help protect vulnerable children from deadly diseases. As an organization that has witnessed the devastating effects of vaccine-preventable diseases on infants and children, we urge you to maintain the strictest vaccination compliance levels for school entry. Vermont is the only state in the New England Region that permits the use of philosophical exemptions.
Vaccines have been hailed as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, saving millions of lives. Experts worldwide have concluded that vaccines continue to remain safe and effective. Recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough are examples of how rapidly vaccine-preventable diseases can spread to unprotected individuals. An excellent study printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11135778) shows that children exempt from vaccines were 22.2 times more likely to acquire measles and 5.9 times more likely to acquire pertussis than were vaccinated children. The study also indicates that schools with pertussis outbreaks had more vaccine exemptors than schools without outbreaks, and that at least 11% of vaccinated children who contracted measles despite being vaccinated during a measles outbreak acquired the infection through contact with a child who was not vaccinated and had an exemption on file. Measles is an extremely contagious disease which will infect 90% of those not fully vaccinated during an outbreak.
Infants who contract pertussis acquire the disease 70 to 85% of the time through unvaccinated family members including school-age siblings. In addition, the first dose of the DTaP vaccine that can protect a child from this disease is not administered until the child reaches 2 months of age and the infant is not fully protected until they have completed the full 4-dose series of this vaccine between the ages of 12 to 18 months. This means that for the first two months of a child’s life, they are completely unprotected and fully dependent on those around them being vaccinated against the disease to “cocoon” them from the illness. The recent increase in reported whooping cough cases in Vermont may be a harbinger of falling immunization rates.
Please take into consideration the rights of vulnerable infants and immune-compromised individuals who depend on the protection afforded through those around them being vaccinated. This is a concept called “herd immunity”. As many of ECBT’s family spokespersons are sadly aware, infants are not protected until they have completed the full series of immunizations. Many of these families have lost their children because they had yet to complete the full series of vaccines, or because the child’s immune system was compromised and therefore unable to build up immunity normally provided from the vaccine. While vaccines are not 100% effective, families should feel confident in knowing that when they enroll their children in kindergarten or daycare, they are surrounded by a high percentage of vaccinated peers and school personnel thereby allowing herd immunity to be the final barrier to deadly diseases.
We urge you to uphold the language contained within SB 199, thereby protecting the health and well-being of all school children throughout Vermont. For more information on the diseases prevented by timely vaccinations we welcome you to our websites – www.VaccinateYourBaby.org and www.ecbt.org. We have included an open letter signed by dozens of medical organizations, nonprofits and individuals in support of the safety and critical importance of timely vaccinations.