Colin McEnroe: We can’t even agree to build a wall against measles
Connecticut’s population drain has been fixed.
We’ve been losing people for years, but a spokesperson for the organization Informed Choice CT told CT News Junkie “Our organization receives calls every single day from frantic religious refugees out of New York who are moving here in droves and uprooting their lives over this. Our advice to those families is to rent and definitely register to vote.”
I don’t know if you’ve seen photos of these refugees, but the images will tear your heart out. They are tired, hollow-eyed, bedraggled, and the children — the poor children! —have runny noses, pink-rimmed eyes, large blotchy skin rashes and, in their mouths, tiny white spots with blueish-white centers.
This is what the stress of dealing with an oppressive regime looks like on the faces of children. Either that or they have measles.
I joke. I kid the frantic religious refugees. We kid because we love. But ... ummm ... would you guys mind standing a little farther away from me? A little farther. Maybe a few more steps. There! Even though you are a tiny dot on the horizon, I can look through these binoculars and see you exercising your God-given right to spread preventable disease.
Why are these refugees, these huddled masses, seeking succor in Stamford, Sherman, Seymour and Sprague? Because New York has a no-nonsense, no-exceptions vaccines law. Get your scheduled vaccines or be home-schooled. We don’t mind if you’re Dopey or Grumpy, but you can’t come to school if you’re Sneezy. Granted, it may be less than ideal to have kids be home-schooled by parents who reject scientific evidence. Those kids are going to grow up (if they have hardy constitutions) and live in our communities and join bowling leagues.
“Who are we up against tonight?”
“The Whooping Cough Creationists.”
All of the above is top of mind because Connecticut’s Commissioner of Public Health Renee Coleman-Mitchell, earlier this week, said she would not release the latest batch of school-by-school vaccination rates, sometimes employing a bizarre rationale.
A reminder: Measles is a highly contagious disease, so the gold standard for vaccination is 95 percent of a given population. This is called “herd immunity,” but another way to think about it would be as a — you may have heard this term — wall. If 95 percent of population is vaccinated, they form a wall which the disease — which is spread from person-to-person — can’t get past, so the disease dies off. Build that wall!
When the 2017-2018 kindergarten school-by-school vaccination rates were — with Coleman-Mitchell’s blessing — released, it turned out that 109 schools fell below the 95 percent mark for the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine. Five schools had rates lower than 80 percent, and two of them had rates that were only in the high 60s. Yikes.
But on Wednesday, Coleman-Mitchell said she saw no need to release the same batch of numbers for the most recent school year. A short time later, the office of Gov. Ned Lamont said the numbers would be released as soon as they are ready.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say somebody got yelled at.
Coleman-Mitchell justified her stance by saying Connecticut has logged only three measles cases in 2019, the last of them found in April. The statewide vaccination rate is over 95 percent “so we’re good,” she said, according to CT News Junkie.
I’m no epidemiologist — although I do bowl against them — but it seems to me that when “we’re good” is exactly the wrong time to let our guard down. I mean, prevention is what you do while you’re good.
Paradoxically, if Informed Choice CT is correct about all those frantic refugees from New York pouring across our borders, there’s even more to worry about. I mean, if she’s telling the truth, the vaccination rates at some schools will drop even lower when the new kids register.
The reason we get so riled up about this stuff is that the drop in vaccination rates is a nationwide problem, as is the rise of eradicable diseases. And it’s an unforced error. It’s a problem we’re having, not because the diseases got more crafty and powerful, but because we, collectively, have grown more stupid and credulous.
There has been interesting research, especially a 2017 study out of Emory University, about how and why people become “vaccine hesitant.” The researchers churned up some interesting data about how “moral foundations” play a role in feeding these emotion-powered mindsets.
It’s worth reading, because in the passing years, officials like Coleman-Mitchell will have to get better and better and speaking persuasively to these groups.
But for now, just the facts, ma’am.
Colin McEnroe’s column appears every Sunday, his newsletter comes out every Thursday and you can hear his radio show every weekday on WNPR 90.5. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for his newsletter at http://bit.ly/colinmcenroe.