The vaccination debate rages on in New Jersey, after lawmakers there failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions for public school-required vaccinations. Thousands protested the bill at the state capitol on Monday.
Lisa DeRogatis said she never vaccinated her three children. "I feel like this is a fascist overreach of the government and taking away religious and medical freedoms," she said.
A new Gallup poll shows a 20-year drop in vaccine support among all age groups. The steepest ages are 30-49, at 12%. But 86% of Americans still support vaccines, and say they are not more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.
"We're seeing a decline because of a rise in anti-vaccine misinformation coupled with political activities," said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist.
Five states have banned non-medical exemptions only, including New York, which eliminated its religious exemption last year after outbreaks that started in 2018. To maintain what's called "herd immunity," public health officials say vaccine rates need to stay above 90% to protect those who can't be vaccinated, including babies and those with compromised immune systems.
"Until we step up our level of advocacy and take down the fake information, the measles epidemics we saw in 2019 are going to become a new normal in America," said Hotez.
The World Health Organization called skepticism about vaccines one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019. At a summit last month, the organization said more doctor training is needed to address concerns from the public.