More Wilton Students Go Unvaccinated Citing Religious Exemption, as State Releases School-by-School Rates

The CT Department of Public Health released school-by-school vaccination rates today for the 2018-2019 school year, adding one more data point to the ongoing state-wide debate about whether families should be able to cite non-medical reasons to seek exemptions from vaccinating their children. Here in Wilton, the percentage of students who are going unvaccinated and saying it’s for religious reasons has increased in just the past year.

Data gathered since 2003 shows that the total percentage of CT students citing religious exemption has grown from 0.3% in 2003 to 1.8% in the most recent school year. There are now 134 schools in CT that fall below the 95% vaccination rate recommended by federal guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)–an increase from 102 schools in 2017-18.

In Wilton two schools didn’t make that threshold for the 2018-2019 school year:  The Montessori School (85.2% total vaccinated) and Our Lady of Fatima School (91.5% total vaccinated). [All Wilton school information is listed in the charts below.]

During the last legislative session, state lawmakers sought to introduce a repeal of the waiver from vaccinations on religious grounds for students in CT schools. The effort didn’t pass, but the CT General Assembly is expected to take up the issue again in the next session. Hearings in Hartford on the topic drew large numbers of families who oppose any measure to eliminate the religious exemption.

Some of those families also opposed releasing data for the 2018-2019 school year, and sought to block the release in court. However, Gov. Ned Lamont called the decision by his administration to publicly release the data today, “…a win for parents and guardians who want to know basic statistics about the educational institutions in which their children are enrolled.” Both he and his Commissioner of Public Health, Renee Coleman-Mitchell, support a repeal of the religious waiver.

The governor stressed that the data contains no information that could identify or single out any individual students, but rather it gives a broad depiction of what is happening on a school-based level.

“This information needs to be available to the public and lawmakers so they are not operating in the dark as they make decisions for their families and shape public policy,” Governor Lamont said. “I want to make it absolutely clear–nothing in the data that was released today identifies any individual student. Rather, it constitutes important public health statistical data critical to the ongoing debate on this trend, which is happening not just in our state, but throughout the country. I do not see any justifiable reason why the public should be blocked from having access to this information, and I hope it is used for exactly what we intended–to better inform people on both sides of this issue.

“This data shows that our state is continuing to see an increase in the number of students whose parents and guardians are choosing to not provide them with lifesaving immunizations. We need to do more to protect children against preventable diseases, which is why it is even more pressing that we work with the General Assembly to repeal the non-medical exemptions in the interests of public health.”

This past year, the U.S. saw its largest measles outbreak since before its eradication in 2000, lighting a fire under the debate about vaccines nationwide.

Wilton Data

Six of Wilton’s schools are included in the state’s report. Of the six, two fall below the CDC’s guideline of a 95% school-wide vaccination rate.

2018-19 School Year

School Type Religious Exemptions Medical Exemptions Total Exemptions Total % Vaccinated
Cider Mill Public 2.1% 0.0% 2.1% 97.9%
Middlebrook Public 2.2% .1% 2.3% 97.7%
Miller Driscoll Public 3.5% 0.1% 3.7% 96.3%
Our Lady of Fatima Nonpublic 8.5% 0.0% 8.5% 91.5%
Montessori School Nonpublic 14.1% .7% 14.8% 85.2%
Wilton High School Public 1.1% 0.0% 1.1% 98.9%

There has also been a distinct increase since the 2017-2018 school year in the numbers of Wilton students who have sought a religious exemption from vaccinations:

2017-2018 School Year

School Type Religious Exemptions Medical Exemptions Total Exemptions Total % Vaccinated
Cider Mill Public .1% 0.0% .1% 99.9%
Middlebrook Public 1.8% .5% 2.3% 97.7%
Miller Driscoll Public 2.0% 0.0% 2.0% 98%
Our Lady of Fatima Nonpublic 7.6% 0.0% 7.6% 92.4%
Montessori School Nonpublic 11.3% .7% 12.0% 88%
Wilton High School Public 1.4% 0.0% 1.4% 98.6%
  • Cider Mill fell from an almost 100% vaccination rate to a 97.9% rate. The increase in exemptions was exclusively in the religious category, from 0.1% to 2.1%.
  • Miller Driscoll increased from 2% of its population exempt on religious grounds in 2017-2018, to 3.5% exempt for the same reason in 2018-2019.
  • Middlebrook stayed flat overall, although the number of students citing a religious exemption increased from 1.8% to 2.2% in the same period.
  • Our Lady of Fatima School rates rose from 7.6% in 2017-18, to 8.5% one year later; the only exemptions at OLF were for religious reasons.
  • The Montessori School has the highest percentage of students exempt from vaccinations, at 14.1% exempt on religious grounds in 2018-19; that number is up from 11.3% the prior year.
  • Wilton High School is the only school with a falling rate of religious exemptions; 1.1% of the WHS student body was exempt from vaccinations for religious reasons in 2018-19, down from 1.4% in 2017-18.

Superintendent of Wilton Public Schools, Dr. Kevin Smith declined to comment on the non-medical exemption, although he did point to the “pretty high” vaccination rates at Wilton’s public schools, and noted, “It’s important that students come to school in environments that are healthy.”

State Sen. Will Haskell released a statement about the release of the data:  “This data confirms that immunization rates across our state are declining, with some school populations experiencing rates much lower than federal guidelines suggest. The number of schools that fall below the Center for Diseases Control’s recommended immunization rate has increased by 31%. This is a frightening trend that threatens the health and safety of students in my district. I was shocked by the numbers I saw today, including unsettling data from some of our local schools. I hope to work with fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle during the next legislative session to ensure our classrooms are safe for every student.”

GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to representatives of both Our Lady of Fatima School and The Montessori School for comment and will update the article accordingly.

1 COMMENT

  1. Will Haskell needs to grow a thicker skin–maybe get an immunization?–if he is going to pursue a career in public administration, or as it ‘s now called, politics. Being shocked, as he says he is, by a small but telling decline in schoolboy immunizations is hardly the appropriate syntax when talking about a growing trend among his constituents. How about being interested? Wondering why? You know, it was only a handful of people back in bonnie old England who talked about forming a democracy without a monarch. Certainly there were those who were “shocked” then, just as is young Will now.

    As far as making sure our classrooms are safe for every student, as Will says he wants them to be, there are many many things he might be doing right now to make that dream come true. Where, for instance, is his vigorous campaign to end gun violence? Where is his effort to take all sugar, soda, saturated fats, artificial flavors, colors, additives, preservatives, and commercially produced foods in general, out of our schools? And where his challenge to those corporations that have insinuated themselves into our school populations with gifts, programs, books, computers and vending machines with their corporate logos? Shouldn’t Will be driving these money grabbers out of these temples where our children spend the lion’s share of their days? And what does Will propose we do about the incessant bullying that Wilton, and other upper-tier towns, teach their children, by example and life-style, is okay?

    Apropos of bullying, I suppose it’s easier to single out a small minority for legislative clobbering than actually take on an entity that can bite back, and may not have gotten its shots!

Comments are closed.