How is that possible?
Nobody knows for sure why New Jersey's vaccination rate has slipped so low, but public health professionals and pediatricians say they've seen it building for several years.Some reasons being floated include a lack of transportation options and a lack of insurance, but even those reasons are dubious considering that one can obtain vaccinations for $10.
In low-income and immigrant communities, many lack health insurance, transportation to the doctor's office, or struggle to understand the complex schedule of up to 28 shots recommended by the time a child is 2 1/2 years old.
And there's also a growing resistance to vaccines among middle-class and wealthy people for whom money and insurance aren't an issue. Some reject the schedule of shots urged by the American Academy of Pediatricians and the CDC.
"There is a lot of angst over vaccines," said David Bendich, a pediatrician and president of the Essex Metro Immunization Coalition, which promotes vaccination among city children. "There is so much anti-vaccine feeling in the population. Nurses don't want to see kids cry. Even some doctors don't want to give four vaccines in one visit."
To improve vaccine rates, physicians and public health officials formed the New Jersey Immunization Network late last year. They fear what the anti-immunization trend might bring: a comeback for serious diseases like whooping cough and measles, all but wiped out generations ago. They note 1,500 cases of whooping cough erupted this year in California, where doctors say children were unprotected.
The real reason is that far too many people have succumbed to the anti-vaccination nonsense, including some doctors who think that the vaccination schedules are too intense.
It's one thing to spread the vaccinations out over a slightly longer period; it's quite another to avoid giving the vaccinations altogether.
Junk science has mainstreamed when it comes to anti-vaccination campaigns, and it's affecting the public health.
Some of the more vocal parents who question vaccines said they were surprised, but not alarmed, by the state's ranking.It's discouraging that parents are delaying vaccinations when their children's health is at stake. All it takes is one measles or whooping cough outbreak to change opinions - especially if there are deaths or hospitalizations required. There is no reason that any child (or adult) should have to endure these entirely preventable illnesses.
"It's encouraging to me that parents are saying 'wait,' " said Sue Collins, co-founder of the New Jersey Alliance for Informed Choice in Vaccination.
The law allows parents to delay vaccinating babies and toddlers, unless they go to day care. Mandates don't kick in until they reach school age.