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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 22, 2019 11:13 AM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Immunization information
I will shortly introduce legislation to require a standardized form for requesting exemptions from vaccination requirements for school-age children, and to require consultation with a physician before exemptions may be approved. Recent outbreaks around the country of mumps and measles, including one now at Temple University, show the need to reinforce vaccination practices.

Pennsylvania is among a minority of states that allow a so-called “philosophical” exemption in addition to religious and medical exemptions from vaccination requirements. Although our vaccination rate currently is within the range medical experts believe ensures effective general population immunity, the number of exemptions and requests is increasing, as it is across the country. Much, perhaps most, of the increase is believed to be among “vaccine hesitant” families who, while not firmly committed against vaccination, claim philosophical exemptions because of questions spurred by dubious and disproven information increasingly available from the internet and acquaintances .

Rather than eliminating or further restricting exemptions to maintain effective vaccination levels as some states do, I believe we can enhance health safety while maintaining our tradition of respect for religious belief and moral conviction by making sure parents receive accurate medical information before granting exemptions. Initially, because requests are determined by individual school districts and there is no required uniform request form, I believe requiring a common form similar to one currently available from the Department of Health would help in simply administering the basic requirement. My proposal would require this form also to include a physician's confirmation that she discussed the medical science of vaccination with the parents, and disallow requests lacking this confirmation. Similar requirements instituted in California in recent years led to a sharp decrease in exemptions there.

I hope you will lend your support to this effort.

Introduced as SB626