UPDATE: Reports released last week indicate that the number of children vaccinated at several Milford schools is lower than what the state health department would like to see.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) on May 3 released to the public for the first time immunization information for each school in Connecticut — public and private — where at least 30 children are enrolled.
“While Connecticut’s immunization rate for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination of kindergarteners remains high at 96.5 percent, we are also seeing a troubling trend that the number of students entering kindergarten who are not fully immunized is growing,” said DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell.
The information released includes the percentage of children in kindergarten and seventh grade who are vaccinated against measles and other diseases. It also includes the percentage of children in any grade who have an immunization exemption.
“High vaccination rates protect not only vaccinated children but also those who cannot or have not been vaccinated,” the DPH states on its website. “This is called herd immunity. Schools that achieve herd immunity reduce the risk of outbreaks.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that at least 95 percent of kindergarten students in a school need to be vaccinated to achieve that herd immunity. The 2017–18 immunization data released by DPH reveal there were 108 schools in the state reporting measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination levels for kindergarten below 95 percent.
Among them were five Milford schools: Live Oaks School, with 91.7 percent of its kindergarteners immunized against measles, mumps and rubella; Calf Pen Meadow at 88 percent, Mathewson School at 94.6 percent; Orchard Hills School at 92.7 percent, and Saint Mary School at 91.4 percent
Milford’s other schools surpassed that 95 percent mark, with J. F. Kennedy School at 95.8 percent, Meadowside School at 100 percent, Orange Avenue School, 95.6 percent and Pumpkin Delight School at 97.4 percent.
Milford Health Director Deepa Joseph said the department has reached out to families who have not vaccinated their children, unless it is for a medical reason, to encourage them to do so and to let them know about the Health Department’s immunization clinics.
But while she said some of the schools reported low numbers, overall the vaccination rate among Milford’s public school children is just under 98 percent. She also raised questions about the reporting at some of the smaller private schools, where there may not be a nurse on staff to collect the data.
The CT Mirror has also reported some school officials saying the numbers in the reports are wrong. Also, the state health department removed one of its reports from its website May 8 and then re-posted it May 10 with revisions.
“We’re still encouraging vaccinations and taking the measles outbreak as another opportunity to encourage children to be vaccinated,” Joseph said.
“As of April 26, 2019, at least 704 measles cases have been confirmed nationally in 22 states during 2019,” according to the state health department’s website. “This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000. There is currently an active, major measles outbreak in New York City impacting hundreds of families. In Connecticut this year, three measles cases have been confirmed and so far the state has been able to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease.”
Joseph said she knows of no cases of measles in Milford.
A few Milford schools also stood out as far as the number of vaccination exemptions on file.
According to the initial report, Milford Christian Academy had the highest number of exemptions in the city, with 6.7 percent exempted for religious reasons and 16.7 percent for medical reasons. But the revised report posted May 10 removed those figures, saying instead that the school had fewer than 30 total students, “so data cannot be released.”
Pastor James Loomer said after that initial report was released that he didn’t know why nearly a quarter of the school’s children are not immunized because parents are asked only to fill out a simple form about their child’s immunizations. Loomer said about 36 students attend the school.
He believes one of the reasons may be a belief among today’s younger generation that there is a link between immunizations and autism, even though that theory has been debunked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Loomer said the school encourages parents to immunize their children, unless there is a medical reason prohibiting it, and he said he plans to forward a Health Department letter recommending vaccinations to school families.
“I think the principle is that whenever it’s possible to make life safer for ourselves and others we ought to do that,” Loomer said. “It is their decision but we will be encouraging them to vaccinate.”
A couple of local parents who steer away from some vaccinations shared their thoughts, saying they have many questions and concerns about vaccinations, read extensively on the subject, and have chosen to have their children receive some immunizations, but not all.
“I have chosen to take a conservative approach to vaccinating my son based on his overall risk of exposure,” said one local mother, who did not want to be named. “I have concerns about the by-products/chemicals used in the making of vaccinations and felt it important to allow his body to develop as much as possible before exposing him to these things.
“I have also educated myself on the effectiveness of certain vaccines and have determined to withhold vaccinations that the CDC acknowledges do not have a high rate of effectiveness.”
Another parent said her two-year-old daughter has been vaccinated against measles because of the outbreak, but when her child was born she thought the infant too young to immunize.
The mother said a number of health issues that have developed over the last 100 years have not been fully explained, and she didn’t want to take a risk that a vaccination might have unintended consequences.
She said she has read many articles about vaccinations and their makeup.
“Why would I put something I know is horrible into my child?” she asked.
Following are the percentages of students exempted from vaccinations at Milford’s other schools, according to the revised report. Most of these numbers have changed from the initial report.
At Lauralton Hall, none are exempted for religious reasons and .2 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Calf Pen Meadow School, 5.2 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 1 percent for medical reasons.
At Charles F. Hayden School at Boys & Girls Village, there are no exemptions.
At East Shore Middle School, 2.4 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 1.2 percent for medical reasons.
At Harborside Middle School, 1.7 percent are exempted for religious reasons and .4 percent for medical reasons.
At J. F. Kennedy School, 3.4 percent are exempted for religious reasons and none for medical reasons.
At Jonathan Law High School, 1.7 percent are exempted for religious reasons and none are exempted for medical reasons.
At Joseph A. Foran High School, 2.5 percent are exempted for religious reasons, and none are exempted for medical reasons.
At Live Oaks School, 3.2 percent are exempted for religious reasons, and none for medical reasons.
At Mathewson School, 2.9 percent are exempted for religious reasons and none for medical reasons.
At Meadowside School, 3.2 percent are exempted for religious reasons and .4 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Orange Avenue School, 4.5 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 1.3 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Orchard Hills School, 2.4 percent are exempted for religious reasons and .9 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Platt Technical High School, none are exempted for religious reasons and 1.2 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Pumpkin Delight School, 2.2 percent are exempted for religious reasons and .4 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At Saint Mary School, 8 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 1.4 percent are exempted for medical reasons.
At the Academy, 1.7 percent are exempt for religious reasons and none are exempted for medical reasons.
At the Foundation School, 5 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 5 percent for medical reasons.
At West Shore Middle School, 1.3 percent are exempted for religious reasons and 2 percent for medical reasons.
The data were self-reported by schools to DPH and come from the 2017-18 school year, according to the state health department.