Thanks to the hysteria over the recent measles outbreak in California, several states are now considering authoritarian measures that will require vaccination of children in nearly all cases, regardless of a parent’s religious or philosophical objections.
As reported by Reuters, as many as 10 states are considering tougher new measures that remove choice for the most part and take vaccination control out of the hands of parents, after more than 150 people in 17 states became ill with measles – some of them who had already been vaccinated against the disease.
Reuters further noted:
The proposed laws have been introduced in statehouses by both Democrats and Republicans and include a range of approaches, from requiring schools to post immunization rates to entirely eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions. But they all respond to one undeniable fact: Most of the recent measles cases have been in people who were not vaccinated against the disease.
Saying no to vaccine choice
Most of the measures are not yet far enough along to judge whether they will actually be passed into law, but legislators in the states considering tougher vaccination bills are say they are optimistic. They add that media coverage of the vaccine issue has helped, though that coverage has been overwhelmingly against vaccine choice.
What’s more, taking away parental consideration over vaccines for their children is one issue generating rare bipartisan support. Lawmakers from Democrat and Republican caucuses are supporting them, though Democrats have overwhelmingly gotten the ball rolling. In eight states Democrats have introduced legislation; in Texas and Vermont bills have been introduced by Republicans.
“This is not the last outbreak we’re going to see,” Washington Rep. June Robinson said, as quoted by Reuters. “The issue will continue to be in the public conversation.”
But even in states where it seemed as though mandatory vaccination measures would sail through, some are now having difficulty generating sufficient support. One of those states is Oregon.
Support is waning in some states, growing in others
As reported by KGW, a mandatory vaccine bill is beginning to lose support, no doubt after scores of Oregon residents have contacted lawmakers to complain.
“Three weeks ago, Senate Bill 442 had strong support and was making quick headway. But now, even supporters admit, the way it’s written now, the bill is at risk of dying in committee before it even gets a vote,” the NBC affiliate reported on its web site.
The Oregon bill in its current version would not allow parents to opt out of vaccination programs for religious, philosophical or personal reasons, as they can now, only for medical reasons. If passed and a child does not get an exemption note from the state, they will not be able to attend school.
“Other than home school, that would leave thousands of kids without their constitutional right to education, and that’s where some politicians are having a hard time with it,” reported KGW.
At 7 percent, Oregon has the highest parental opt-out rate in the country. Nationally, the median rate is 1.8 percent.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, a Senate panel has approved restrictions on religious exemptions to vaccines.
“Since 2008, parents in New Jersey have needed only to submit a letter stating vaccines violate their religion in order for their kids to be exempt, without explaining how or why. Vaccines for nearly 9,000 students in the 2013-14 academic year were waived for religious reasons, compared to 1,641 in the 2005-06 school year,” reported NJ.com.
Supportive members of a state Senate panel approving the measure said the California measles outbreak proved it was necessary.
Notarized letters from parents must explain “the nature of the person’s religious tenet or practice that is implicated by the vaccination and how the administration of the vaccine would violate, contradict or otherwise be inconsistent with that tenet or practice,” according to the bill, S-1147). In addition, the statement also most show the belief “is consistently held by the person,” and is not just “an expression of that person’s political, sociological, philosophical or moral views, or concerns related to the safety of efficacy of the vaccination.”
Also, parents would have to submit a signed statement from a New Jersey doctor affirming they have been advised of the “dangers” of not vaccinating their children.
The measure now heads to the full Senate.