Washington -- As the reported number of measles cases around the nation steadily grows, Sen. Chris Murphy announced Tuesday he will introduce a bill requiring parents who chose not to vaccinate their children to hear the dangers of their decision.
“The irony is that if you’re getting a medical exemption in most states, you actually have to have a note signed by a doctor; but if you’re using a philosophical exemption or a religious exemption, often all you have to do is sign the back of that form. It seems like we should, at the very least, try to marry those two standards together,” Murphy said at a Senate hearing Tuesday.
His bill would require parents who want a non-medical exemption from having their child vaccinated to first visit their physician and be informed of the risks. Murphy said that information would “counteract the false information that is being spread, leading parents to believe that vaccinations cause conditions like autism.”
Murphy is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The panel held a hearing Tuesday that featured pediatricians and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials testifying on the link between recent outbreaks of diseases such as measles, and some parents' decision not to vaccinate their children.
As of Feb, 6, the CDC reported that 121 people from 17 states were reported to have measles in an outbreak that started in California.
“As a parent of a 3-year-old and 6-year-old, the recent spread of the measles virus is especially concerning – as it is to any parent with little kids,” Murphy said. “If someone doesn’t want to vaccinate their child, they should be fully aware of all the risks it poses to their own kids, as well as the kids around them. Too many people - kids, chemo patients, and more – are vulnerable to illness and can’t get vaccinated for reasons beyond their control. “
Some lawmakers want to go further than Murphy.
Rep. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a South Florida Democrat, said on Tuesday she wants legislation that would eliminate the exemption and mandate vaccinations for all public school students.
Connecticut honors the exemption. But California state lawmakers have proposed legislation that would require parents to vaccinate all school children unless a child's health is in danger, joining only two other states – Mississippi and West Virginia --with such stringent restrictions.