North Dakota’s Low Vaccination Rate Should Be a Mark of Statewide Shame


Over the weekend Robin Huebner published a very interesting look at the vaccination issue here in North Dakota.

“In 2000, 95 percent of the state’s kindergartners were fully immunized,” she writes. “In 2014-2015, the number was 89 percent.”

“That put us amongst the five lowest states in the U.S.,”Dr. Paul Carson, professor of public health at North Dakota State University and director of infection prevention and control at Sanford Health in Fargo, told her.

That’s not something North Dakota should be proud of.

Admittedly, this is a tough area of public policy. The idea of the government mandating vaccinations – literally forcing needles into people’s arms – should give anyone concerned with liberty the hives. On the other hand, falling vaccinations put our whole state at risk. It can spur the re-emergence of serious diseases. The elderly and the infirm, who may not enjoy the protections of vaccination, are particularly at risk.

In North Dakota opting out of vaccinations is very, very easy. The state’s immunization requirements are covered in Chapter 23-07-17.1. of the North Dakota Century Code which basically allows you to decline vaccinations simply because you don’t want them:


Above Dr. Carson is quoted as describing the state’s vaccinations rates as declining since 2000. It’s worth noting that legislation putting this exemption into law passed in 2000.

Also interesting from Huebner’s report is that some of the state’s chiropractors have been leading the charge in spreading anti-vaccination information:

Another hurdle revealed in the study, through interviews with stakeholders, was “misleading information” about vaccinations being disseminated by some chiropractors in the state,

It states “One chiropractor was holding seminars to ‘inform’ people about vaccinations.”

Brittany Ness, director of nursing at the Steele County Public Health Department, said most of the chiropractors in her area fall into that category.

“There are a lot of naturalistic people out there who are anti-vaccinators, promoting not to vaccinate,” Ness said.

The NDSU researchers sent a survey to chiropractors to gauge their beliefs and received 15 responses. They said that while the surveys showed a broad range of opinions on immunization practice and policy, the number of responses was too low to have any statistical significance.

Numerous chiropractors declined to comment, and the North Dakota Chiropractors Association president Jacob Holkup also declined comment regarding the assertion that some chiropractors are spreading misinformation about vaccines.

“The NDCA does not have an official statement concerning procedures that fall outside our scope of practice, including vaccination,” Holkup said in an email.

Whatever your opinion of chriropracty, holding that sort of training does not qualify a person to spread information about infectious disease and immunization. I would hope that ND Chiropractors Association would encourage its members not to use their credentials to promote something they have no expertise in.

Anyway, we are having a national debate right now about “fake news” and its impact on the national election, but one could argue that the decline in vaccination rates both here in North Dakota and across the nation are a better example of the perniciousness of false information.

Americans are turning away from the sound science of vaccination due to misleading films and testimony of celebrities. But what to do about it? Should we limit the free speech rights of filmmakers and celebrities?

The risk of living of letting people be free is that sometimes free people make really, really bad decisions. Which isn’t an argument in favor of reducing freedoms. On a reflection on reality.