At EdSource, Jane Meredith Adams reports that Mississippi has not had a case of measles since 1992, West Virginia since 2009. Now California joins them as the third state with strict vaccination school entrance rules.
“It’s a good club to be in,” said Rahul Gupta, state health officer in West Virginia, who was effusive in welcoming California – home to more than eight times the number of children under the age of 18 as Mississippi and West Virginia combined – as a public health leader in school vaccinations, a role that the two Southern states have played for decades. “What we are seeing in West Virginia is a significant decline in vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said. “We expect the same in California.”
“We haven’t had a measles case in a schoolchild in decades,” said Thomas Dobbs, state epidemiologist in Mississippi, which has the highest school vaccination rate in the nation for measles, mumps and rubella with 99.7 percent of students receiving the immunization.
West Virginia instituted its vaccination requirements in 1987, has been strengthening them ever since and has never had a religious or personal belief exemption. Mississippi set its vaccination requirements in 1972, never had a personal belief exemption and ended its religious exemption in 1979, when the state Supreme Court ruled against such exemptions.
But in the ensuing decades, the fraudulent paper on the possible link between vaccinations and autism by Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who was stripped of his medical license by a government review board, has sowed fear in parents and wreaked havoc on vaccination rates in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the U.S. Both Gupta and Dobbs noted that it is far easier never to have had exemptions to vaccination requirements, or to have removed them decades ago, than to remove them in 2015 as California did.