Pennsylvania legislators are pushing for a bill that will make it illegal for doctors to refuse to provide medical care for unvaccinated children.
Pennsylvania Bill Receives Support From Anti-Vaxers
House Bill 286, also known as Informed Consent Protection Act, was first introduced in January by Republican Representative Daryl D. Metcalfe of Cranberry Township. It is rapidly gaining popularity among the anti-vaccine crowd.
The bill states that health care providers cannot "harass, coerce, scold, or threaten" the patient or the parent of the patient for choosing not to get immunization for preventable diseases. It will also ban health insurers from penalizing doctors for low immunization rates.
Doctors, meanwhile, will be barred from accepting incentives from insurance companies or drug manufacturers for vaccinating their patients.
At a press conference, Metcalfe maintained that parents should make the choice of whether to vaccinate their children or not.
"Whether they are choosing to vaccinate on a different schedule or limit the number of vaccines, or refuse some of the vaccines, it's a parent's right to make that decision for their child," he argued. "Our children don't belong to the state. This is not communist Russia."
U.S. Measles Outbreak Growing Worse
The proposed legislation comes amid a measle outbreak, the highest that the country has seen in the past 25 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 704 individual cases of measles have been recorded across the United States since Jan. 1, 2019. Majority of the people who got measles did not receive an immunization.
The highly contagious disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.
Outbreaks of mumps have also been reported across the country. Both diseases can be prevented by getting the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Pennsylvania is among the 17 states that currently allow parents to opt their children out of getting a vaccine due to personal or philosophical belief. Almost all states, however, allow exemptions for people whose religious beliefs prohibit immunization.
The World Health Organization, earlier this year, declared anti-vaccination sentiments as one of the top 10 threats to global health. While public health experts, including the CDC, assure parents that vaccines have been tested and proven to be safe, many still hold the belief that it causes autism and increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, infertility, and other conditions.
"Science has disproved many of the theories about what vaccinations might do and has proven what they can do. ... I find it hard to grasp those who are choosing not to take advantage of what is readily available to them," stated Caryl Stern, president of UNICEF USA.
Unvaccinated children also become a threat to the community, especially among people who have compromised immune systems. In addition, they are also placing pregnant women at risk of infection, even those who have been vaccinated.