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February 13, 2015

Pa. senator aims to remove one state vaccine exemption

Daylin Leach says he will introduce legislation that would remove the philosophical exemption

Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery, Delaware) announced on Thursday that he will introduce legislation to remove the philosophical exemption to the state's vaccination rules.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania has the second lowest vaccination rate among kindergartners nationwide. The state's vaccination rate against measles is at 85 percent.

“Vaccines are safe. The recent outbreak of measles reminds us that vaccines are also absolutely essential to public health. It should be the policy of the Pennsylvania government to encourage the highest possible vaccination rate," Leach said.

While Pennsylvania law requires that children receive certain vaccinations before attending school, exemptions for medical reasons, religious objections and “a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief" exist.

Leach's memo said that based on statistics compiled by the state's Department of Health for the 2013-2014 school year, 3,394 children received exemptions for moral or ethical reasons and 2,988 received exemptions for religious reasons.

Leach said in the memo that his bill would potentially reduce the number of children who are unvaccinated in the state due to non-medical reasons by more than half.

Pennsylvania law currently requires immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, chickenpox, whooping cough and meningitis.

Leach's proposal comes after a current nationwide measles outbreak that has re-ignited the anti-vaccination debate. There have been more than 120 confirmed cases of measles in 2015.

"A very small percentage of people not vaccinating their children could put all of us in danger," Leach said.