Washington also passed a law removing non-medical vaccine exemptions in 2019, but only for the MMR vaccine. And New Jersey passed a law mandating meningococcal vaccines for college students, something that is still only required in fewer than half of states.
New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2020
So what can we expect in 2020?
Remember, it was a record setting year for measles in the United States. The worst since 1992…
Surprisingly, in addition to some bills calling for stronger vaccine protections, there are others trying to weaken existing laws!
Yes, in South Dakota, someone is actually proposing that they do away with school vaccine requirements!
Fortunately, most vaccine bills in the rest of the country would actually help protect our kids from vaccine-preventable diseases.
HB 103 in Alabama would require health care providers to report and check the state immunization registry before giving a vaccine
HB 2429 in Arizona would require that schools post immunization rates for their students on their websites
SB 163 in Colorado would create a standardized vaccine exemption form and require parents to complete an online education module before obtaining a non-medical exemption
HB 5044 in Connecticut would strengthen medical exemptions and eliminate religious exemptions to school immunization requirements.
DC B23-0171 in the District of Columbia, the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2019, would allow a minor to be vaccinated if they “comprehend the need for, the nature of, and any significant risks inherent” to getting their vaccines.
HB 825 in Florida would allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to kids who are at least 7 years old – a watered down version of the original bill that would have allowed pharmacists to give any vaccine to children
SB 64 in Florida would eliminate religious exemptions to vaccine requirements to attend school and create a medical exemption review panel to review all medical exemptions
SB 674 in Florida would require a minimum percentage of children in child care facilities to be vaccinated
HB 615 in Georgia would allow minors who are at least 16 years old to be vaccinated without parental consent.
SB 3668 in Illinois would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines and allow minors who are at least 14 years old to be vaccinated without parental consent
S4244/A6564 in New York would allow minors who are at least 14 years old to be vaccinated without needing a parent to give consent
S298/A2912 in New York would require HPV vaccines for kids born after January 1, 2009.
HB 1771 in Pennsylvania would require parents seeking a religious or philosophical exemption to get an annual medical consultation to understand the existing threats to children’s health from communicable diseases, and to get briefed on potentials for school exclusion and quarantine, in the case of outbreaks.
Even though our own kids are vaccinated and protected, many of us are concerned about vaccination and exemption rates because we understand the risks.
We know that some kids are too young to be vaccinated and some kids can’t be vaccinated, as they have true medical exemptions.
Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates
So how are our vaccination and exemption rates doing these days?
According to the latest reports from the CDC:
the percentage of kindergartners with a vaccine exemption continues to slowly rise and is now up to 2.5%, up from 2.3% during the 2017-18 school year
an additional 2.8% of kindergartners were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption
the percentage of kindergartners up to date for MMR ranged from 87.4% in Colorado to 99.2% in Mississippi
coverage by age 24 months was ≥90% for ≥3 doses of polio- virus vaccine (92.7%), ≥1 dose of MMR (90.4%), ≥3 doses of HepB (91.0%), and ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine (90.0%), and are all up over previous years by 1 to 3%
only 56% of toddlers receive two or more doses of the flu vaccine by age two years
only 1.3% of children born in 2015 and 2016 had received no vaccinations by the second birthday, which is up from 1.1%
“During the 2018–19 school year, national coverage with MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines remained near 95%. However, coverage and exemption rates varied by state. Recent measles outbreaks in states with high overall MMR coverage, such as New York, highlight the need for assessing vaccination coverage at the local level. ”
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2018–19 School Year
Although vaccination rates are generally high and exemption rates low at the state and national level, it is the pockets of undervaccinated kids that are the problem.
In Texas, for example, although state level exemptions are fairly low (2.4%) and immunization rates high, in some communities and school districts, more than 50% of kids are unvaccinated!
“The importance of achieving and sustaining high vaccination coverage across all communities is illustrated by the 22 measles outbreaks occurring in the United States in 2019, with 1,249 measles cases identified during January 1–October 1, 2019. Most cases have been among persons who were not vaccinated against measles. Pockets of low vaccination coverage, because of lack of access to vaccination services or to hesitancy resulting from the spread of inaccurate information about vaccines, increase the likelihood of a measles outbreak. “
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage by Age 24 Months Among Children Born in 2015 and 2016 — National Immunization Survey-Child, United States, 2016–2018
Unfortunately, we don’t see that kind of local data in the latest reports on vaccination coverage and exemption rates.
And while we should certainly work to get everyone vaccinated who doesn’t have an exemption, lots of work needs to be done educate parents that they should vaccinate and protect their kids instead of seeking non-medical exemptions.
When you actually look at the petition that the vaccine choice in Maine used, it is easy to see that it is basically a list of anti-vaccine talking points that often scare and mislead parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, including that Maine’s new vaccine law:
Eliminates parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their children. – Vaccine mandates don’t force parents to vaccinate their kids. They still have a choice, even if they don’t like what their choices which no longer include sending their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school.
Will harm, not help, public health. – Getting more kids vaccinated and protected does not harm public health!
Strips parents of their right to religious freedom. – Which religions are against getting kids vaccinated and protected?
Prevents a minority group from receiving an education. – Since parents have a choice on whether or not to vaccinate their kids, it is not the schools or the state that is preventing intentionally unvaccinated kids from receiving an education.
Our childhood vaccination rates are high. – Fortunately, vaccination rates are generally high in most of the country, but that’s not the issue. It is the clusters of unvaccinated kids that are typically the problem. At the Maine Coast Waldorf School, for example, only 38% of kids had the recommended two doses of MMR!
Unvaccinated children are not a risk to the immunocompromised. – This is simply not true.
Vaccines DO cause injury. – Yes, but the risks from vaccines are small, unlike vaccine-preventable diseases, they very rarely cause severe injuries.
What are they doing in other states?
In New York, they have tried to equate their choice to not vaccinate their kids, which is what’s actually keeping those kids from going to school, with efforts to desegregate schools in the 1960s.
And while some kids are now being homeschooled, some parents continued to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school, right up until the deadline to get vaccinated and protected, hoping their lawsuits would succeed and keep their kids in school.