Senator: Reduce non-medical exemptions to immunization vaccines

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut is working on a bill to increase the amount of information provided to parents who choose to exempt their children from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

“As a parent of a 3-year-old and 6-year-old, the recent spread of the measles virus is especially concerning — as it is to any parent with little kids,” said Murphy, a first-term Democrat.

“If someone doesn’t want to vaccinate their child, they should be fully aware of all the risks it poses to their own kids, as well as the kids around them,” he said.

Murphy said there are many people, such as young children and chemo patients, who are vulnerable to illness and can’t get vaccinated for reasons beyond their control.

“At the very least, parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids should be aware of the danger it presents to their family and society,” he said.

Must visit physician

Murphy is drafting legislation that will incentivize states to require that parents who want a non-medical exemption from having their child vaccinated must first visit their physician and be informed of the risk of refusing vaccination.

The information would be designed to counteract the false information that is being spread, leading parents to believe that vaccinations cause conditions like autism, he said.

Murphy’s comments

The full text of Murphy's remarks on the subject at a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing is below:

“Let me suggest an alternative to the elimination of the exemption. As you mentioned, all that you need to do in a state like California or Connecticut [to get an exemption] is simply sign a piece of paper; you actually get no information about the consequences of not getting a vaccination.

"And yet the studies are pretty clear that the more information that you give, the less likely it is that people will take the exemption, and in fact, the less likely it is that you’ll have outbreaks.

“Here’s a pretty stunning one from 2006: In states that had higher bars for exemptions, they were 50% less likely to have whooping cough outbreaks, and you can recite other literature that says the same thing.

“…..Let’s say we just raised the bar for a philosophical objection, and we said for instance that you have to consult with your physician first or you have to review information about the risks of not getting your kids vaccinated.

“…My office is looking at legislation that would provide some incentives for states to increase the information that they’re giving to parents. Not necessarily dictating what exemptions are used, but to admit that as a national health priority, it probably makes sense to make sure that the best information is being given out.

“The irony is that if you’re getting a medical exemption in most states, you actually have to have a note signed by a doctor, but if you’re using a philosophical exemption or a religious exemption, often all you have to do is sign the back of that form. It seems like we should, at the very least, try to marry those two standards together.”

Murphy’s background

Chris Murphy is a Democrat first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. He previously served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Prior to going to Washington, Murphy was elected to both the state Senate and state House of Representatives in Connecticut.