Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said 95 percent of kids in Rhode Island get the MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella, vaccine. “So that’s one of the highest vaccination rates for MMR– that 95 percent compares to 91 percent throughout the country,” Wendelken said.
Connecticut’s vaccination rate is similar to Rhode Island’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Massachusetts has the highest vaccination rate in the country, with over 98 percent of kids receiving the vaccine.
While Wendelken said there are many factors that contribute to a state’s vaccination rate, he credits the Rhode Island’s universal vaccine payment program with helping keep vaccination rates high. The program, which the state implemented in the early 1990s, provides all vaccines that are part of the vaccine schedule for Rhode Island schools for free to health care providers.
Through that program, the state distributes over a dozen vaccines, including the MMR vaccine, using federal grant money and insurance company contributions to purchase the vaccines. Wendelken said the program is a cost-saving public health program.
“By getting this vaccine out to health care providers, we can limit public health costs that we might be having to make down the road to treat a lot of these diseases that can otherwise be prevented with vaccines,” Wendelken said.
Wendelken added that keeping the state's overall vaccination rate high protects those who can’t get the MMR vaccine because of severe allergies, chemotherapy or immunosuppressive medication, or other immunodeficiency disorders.