Vaccination Report from Vermont Department of Health

By Steph Machado

Published 02/06 2014 07:03PM

Updated 02/06 2014 07:35PM

MONTPELIER - School nurses like Elizabeth Parris know how quickly illness can pass from kid to kid.

"Our district is all one campus," she said, referring to the Winooski School District. "There are siblings involved, things do spread."

That's part of the reason Vermont requires vaccinations for all school children. The Department of Health made its annual report to the House Committee on Health Care Thursday. It's the first report since Act 157 passed in 2012. That law almost banned the controversial philosophic exemption, which lets parents choose not to vaccinate.

Jennifer Stella advocates for that right as a volunteer for the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

"My son had a seizure right after his first round of 7 shots at 2 months old," she said.

Vermont is second in the nation for the highest number of non-medical exemptions, after Oregon.

"20 states in the United States have a philosophic exemption, what differs among the states is the process by which to obtain one," explains Christine Finley, the Immunization Program Manager for the Vermont Department of Health. Act 157 made that process slightly tougher for parents, but not by much. Before, parents could sign an one-time exemption form at school. Now, parents have to come in and sign the form annually, and also have to acknowledge they have read the Vermont Department of Health materials that give evidence-based information about vaccines.

Elizabeth Parris says parents should acknowledge that not vaccinating your child can affect other kids, like those who are immunocompromised.

"That is going through a chemo regimen, that has just come back," she said as an example. "These children are going to be immunocompromised, and then of course if other children around them are not vaccinated and that disease is brought into the school, there's a chance they could catch it."

Thursday's reports show Vermont is still behind. 63% of children ages 19-35 month are immunized, compared to 68% nationwide. This year also marked the launch of "It's OK to Ask," a social media campaign to educate parents about vaccines, and remind them of their child's vaccination schedule.

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