America’s Republican governors have come under fire for approving a vaccination bill – in deference to opposition from parents who claim a personal belief exemption.
John Kasich, the Ohio governor, proposed legislation earlier this month that would let anyone without a medical exemption avoid going to the school nurse when they can’t be vaccinated for religious or other reasons. The bill passed, Ohio Senate, yesterday.
“Parents should be able to make informed decisions,” Kasich said in a statement announcing the legislation. “Every parent’s decision should be respected.”
The bill is significant because it is often the first of its kind introduced in states. Republican governors have previously vetoed similar legislation in statehouses.
In New Jersey, bills have been proposed by Republicans but have been vetoed. A bill in Michigan, seeking to remove the religious and personal exemption, has not received a committee hearing.
“I’m grateful for the bipartisan passage of Governor Kasich’s legislation in Ohio,” said Betsy DeVos, the US secretary of education, on Thursday. “Too many children and adults in Ohio are still at risk from the preventable diseases that are totally preventable through vaccination. Governor Kasich’s action is long overdue, and I look forward to continuing to promote vaccines in the coming year.”
The bill seems to have received the support of the parents in Ohio who successfully proposed an amendment during the hearing that mandates teacher training and the requirement of curriculum analysis to assess the expected value of the vaccine.
State Democratic spokesman David Bergstein accused Republicans of prioritizing an influx of campaign contributions over the health of children.
“You really need to ask a person why they would voluntarily give up one of the strongest economic freedoms – the freedom to make your own decisions about your children’s health – in order to get money and political support,” Bergstein said.
The measles outbreak in the states has led to some Republicans expressing public concern about vaccination, pointing to a report from the CDC that linked the current measles outbreak to a growing opposition by parents to vaccines. “It’s not an anti-vaccine movement. They’re just not vaccinating their kids,” says Michele Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota.
In October, the US House voted to force federal scientists to speak about the safety of vaccines.