WATCH: Trump at Governors’ meeting on vaccines: States have freedom to protect their children from ‘causing great harm’
The White House yesterday announced it would remove vaccinations from the list of federal budget requirements, noting the scientific community’s consensus that vaccinations are safe. While the Trump administration is lifting the age requirement that all children in public and private schools receive a one-time vaccine, the statement noted children do not yet enjoy a right to vaccine exemption.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said in the statement, “The decision about whether a child may be excluded from school due to a vaccine exemption is best left to parents, teachers, and health care professionals, and is the responsibility of school boards, local governments, and school officials.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar today issued a statement in support of removing the exemption: “I continue to believe that vaccines are the best way to protect children from diseases like measles, which kill about a hundred people in the U.S. each year,” he said. “Moving forward, CDC and HHS will consult closely with state and local governments to ensure appropriate policies and opportunities to obtain the most up-to-date and appropriate vaccines for children continue to be available.”
The U.S. CDC also weighed in, noting the Department of Health and Human Services is aligned with the release of the first amendments of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIP), which recognizes that “basic human needs may be met by combinations of vaccines rather than with oral immunizations alone,” reports Reuters.
This year, however, measles has been declared eliminated in the U.S. after an outbreak, spread mainly among people who were unvaccinated, in December of 2017.
People vaccinated against measles will have a protected margin against the disease, because a pathogen cannot survive if there is no immune response among the susceptible individuals.
Antivaccination campaigner Jim Carrico told the New York Times that “it’s more of a slow bleed to potential danger than it is a sudden thrust of something that kills immediately.”
“These cases on the whole prove a point: There is a potential risk,” said Kean Miller, professor of environmental health at Johns Hopkins University. “We definitely need to look at this more closely in an environment where we know vaccines are frequently not being used.”
Measles cases have risen this year in the U.S. as American parents opt out of immunizing their children.
In February, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said vaccination is his agency’s top priority, but he did not mention religion and religious groups were involved in the issue.
“Of the 9,000 of these [preventable] diseases that afflict humankind every year, and of the 880,000 people who die from these diseases, probably one-quarter are related to child immunization,” he said.
On June 9, at a meeting of the Council of Chief State Medical Officers, a state group of physicians who advise their state’s governors and legislators, Redfield again said there is a “strong public health consensus” on immunization.
He noted vaccination is the most effective method we have for preventing disease.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads from person to person when droplets are inhaled or sprayed through the nose and mouth of someone who has the virus. Without measles vaccination, vaccination would prevent 42 percent of U.S. measles outbreaks.
Children should be enrolled in the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 to 15 months, every two years, and at age 4 to 6. Both the first and second doses must be given before age 12 months.
Catherine Lucey contributed to this story.