The Unhealthiest State in America Has the Best Vaccination Rate: Offit's Orwellian Logic Fails to Connect the Dots
Author: Children's Health Defense Team
In a Daily Beast opinion piece on December 15, Paul Offit—one of the vaccine industry’s most strident ambassadors—puzzles over a seeming contradiction. How, Offit wonders, could the state of Mississippi, which has “the worst overall health in the nation,” have used standout “efficiency” to achieve over 99.4% vaccine coverage in kindergartners? Rather than seriously investigate this apparent enigma, Offit presents his ready-made answer and reveals his article’s true purpose. According to Paul Offit, Mississippi’s high vaccination rates are due to the state’s 1979 decision to make the government—rather than parents—the primary vaccine decision-maker for children.
Reflecting on the Mississippi Supreme Court’s 1979 elimination of that state’s religious exemption to vaccination, Offit applauds the Court’s position, stating, “If a parent harbors a religious belief that contradicts a basic tenant [sic] of modern medicine…the state has a right to protect the child from the irresponsible acts of the parent.” Offit—though a parent himself—tells readers that the state-determined “duty” to vaccinate supersedes other parental rights. In short, Offit appears to believe that coercion is the name of the game, openly admitting that he disapproves of the 47 states that still allow parents in the U.S. to take religious, moral or personal beliefs into account when making vaccine decisions on behalf of their children.
“The worst health in the nation”
According to the comprehensive state-by-state health rankings that Offit cites, Mississippi has remained squarely at the bottom of the nation’s overall health rankings for decades (Figure 1). The low ranking correlates, in part, with the state’s poverty statistics: one-third of Mississippi’s children live in poverty (the highest percentage of any state), and 87% of the state’s Medicaid enrollees are children. But from birth on, scattered health statistics suggest that Mississippi’s children and adolescents face other physical and mental health challenges as well. To cite some examples from the available data:
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