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February 14, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Casey says Pa. can improve on shots

U.S. Senator Says Pa. Can Improve on Shots

Momentum is building among Pennsylvania lawmakers to increase the state's rate of immunization against contagious diseases. 

Leaders from both sides of the aisle, joined by advocates in the medical community, have come forward about the importance of vaccinations over the course of the week. 

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery, Delaware) released a memo on Thursday detailing plans for a bill that would remove Pennylvania's philosophical exemption to vaccinations. Using data from the state Department of Health, Leach projects that the bill would reduce the number of children left unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons by more than half. 

State Rep. Becky Corbin (R., Chester), who as a child contracted measles before the vaccine existed, is representing the House counterpart to Daylin's bill, reports

On Friday, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D., Pa.) was in Philadelphia to office his support in the push for vaccinations, Newsworks reports

Casey joined medical experts at the University of Pennsylvania during a presentation outlining steps to prevent a measles outbreak. While declining to offer a specific political solution, reports Casey urged the Pa. Department of Health to look into why the state has such low vaccination rates, 

"We all have an obligation to do all that we can to do the right thing for our own children, but also the right thing for our community," Casey said.

One number that has received particularly close attention is the 85.3% of kindergartners who were vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, one of the lowest rates in the United States. Pennsylvania health officials say that the number, while low, is partly skewed by the fact that parents do not have to vaccinate their children until they are six, meaning many would have begun first grade. 

While removing the philosophical exemption may increase the number of children vaccinated, an advocate from CHOP, Paul Offit, has concerns that it would also intensify the resistance of opponents. Offit's suggestion, per, is to remove all non-medical exemptions. 

Offit has recently been vocal about the debate over vaccinations, as more than 120 measles cases have surfaced already in 2015. In a report from CBS 3, Offit directly challenged the right of refusal to vaccinations. 

The argument that they’re making is that it’s my right to have my child catch and potentially transmit what could be a fatal disease,” he says. “I think our civil liberties end certainly well before that.”