Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Coalition seeks public grant to fight vaccination myths

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network

An Illinois-based public health organization is seeking public funds to battle against anti-vaccination rhetoric that it says has fueled a measles outbreak.

The Illinois Public Health Association is seeking a grant from the state to bring the fight to those who spread misinformation about vaccinations.

Executive Director Tom Hughes said the online presence of the anti-vaccination movement has resurrected the measles virus just as it was about to be officially eradicated from the country.

“The measles outbreak that we’re experiencing right now is in direct relationship to the anti-vaccine proponents spreading misinformation through social media,” he said.

If the association gets the grant, he says it would team up with local public health offices, hospitals and clinics to confront the misinformation about vaccinations head-on.

“I think that we have the ability to take on those questions,” he said.

State data shows that most schools have immunization rates of more than 95 percent in Illinois, but only nine percent of the state’s private and public schools are at 100 percent. That means there are about 40,000 students enrolled in Illinois schools who have not been vaccinated, according to state data.

The request was originally for $3 million to facilitate a vaccination program for the state, but Hughes said officials plan on directly offering vaccines.

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