Can you guess which state in the Union has the highest vaccination coverage? There are almost no worries over measles transmissions in this state, which boasts vaccination mandates among the strictest in the nation. It hasn’t had a report of measles within the state lines since 1992.
If you guessed Mississippi, you nailed it! Mississippi, despite ranking as number 31 in public funding for health care, has almost complete vaccination coverage for children entering kindergarten. Decades ago, the state passed a law that required mandatory vaccination for children without personal belief exemptions. The state allows for absolutely no exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons at all. Only medical exemptions are accepted, and those vaccination waivers are not easy to come by, according to NBC. Last year, only 0.3 percent of kindergartners in the state were missing any vaccinations. A full 99.7 percent were vaccinated with at least five doses of the DTaP, four doses of the polio vaccine, three doses of the vaccination against hepatitis B, two doses of the MMR, and two doses of the chicken pox vaccine.
Mississippi defends their legislation, as quoted below, and encourages vaccination on the state website by informing the public that there “is no evidence for lasting adverse effects from immunization.”
“The possibility that immunizations could cause lasting health problems has been extensively studied to ensure that children are safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Academies of Science and others have both made careful evaluations of evidence over the years. No supporting evidence has yet been found to link immunizations with health conditions or disorders in later life, including asthma, autism and diabetes.”
According to a recent article on Yahoo! Parenting, some disagree with the state’s blanket statement.
Mississippi falls below par in some other health arenas, like having rates higher than the national average for obesity, heart disease, and stroke. It has among the highest rates of cancer and diabetes, and is the worst state for infant mortality and premature death, according to America’s Health Rankings.
Still, even with less public funding, it tops the nation for vaccine-preventable disease prevention. The CDC says the state has done an amazing job at keeping vaccine-preventable childhood diseases away. The state is also receiving national media praise for its vaccination coverage. According to recent news reports, there hasn’t been a single case of measles in the state in decades.
The state’s website is clear about the health department’s stance on vaccination.
“Immunizations rely on the natural action of the body’s immune system to create protection against disease. The immune system is constantly active against the bacteria that we constantly meet every day in food, water, air and the surfaces we touch. Giving one, two, or three immunizations in a single dose doesn’t add any significant burden to the body’s immune system. Careful studies have shown that there is no difference in the way children tolerate a single immunization compared to multiple ones.”
It’s not easy to get a medical exemption in the state either. Parents must get a letter from their children’s doctor, who must be licensed within the state, requesting a medical exemption from the local District Health Officer. According to the state website, the exemptions are granted unless there is an occurrence of a disease that would cause an exemption to create an “undue risk to the community.” In situations like that, the medical waiver might not be approved. According to the Washington Post, the only other state that allows only medical vaccination exemptions is West Virginia.
“Immunizations work,” West Virginia state health officer Rahul Gupta told the Washington Post. “It’s not rocket science.”
“Our position is we have some of the best immunization laws in the country,” Gupta commented about the state mandates. In an attempt to raise vaccination coverage in their state, lawmakers in California are considering adopting laws similar to those in Mississippi and West Virginia.