The United States is experiencing its worst measles outbreak in years, but lawmakers in some states are responding in a counterintuitive manner, according to Politico.
Rather than attempting to shore up vaccination rates, some states are considering legislation that would loosen rules surrounding childhood immunizations.
More than 160 measles cases have been documented across 10 states since Jan. 1, Politico noted, but in West Virginia, lawmakers are debating a bill "that would add back the religious and personal objection exemptions."
Despite a measles outbreak in Houston, one Texas lawmaker who is “part of a group of far-right lawmakers allied with the PAC Texans for Vaccine Choice” has submitted a bill that would bar the state from tracking exemptions.
Seventy-four cases have occurred in Washington state and Oregon, but lawmakers in the latter are considering a bill that “would require state health authorities to create a central website with links to all vaccine package inserts, ingredient lists and other information.”
Dubbed a measure for the “vaccine hesitant,” Republican state Sen. Kim Thatcher’s bill would likely only serve to scare people out of vaccinating their children, according to Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California Hastings School of Law in San Francisco.
She said providing a list of trace chemicals in vaccine formulations without context is “designed to scare” rather than inform.
In Arizona, one of the 11 vaccine-related bills under consideration “adds a religious exemption to existing law, which already allows for a personal belief exemption, and gets rid of the requirement that parents acknowledge they understand the potential consequences of not vaccinating their children.”
Barbara Loe Fisher, who founded the vaccine-skeptical National Vaccine Information Center, said the vaccination issue is "part of a larger culture war that's going on in this country. It's about the right to autonomy, the natural right to self determination. We have freedom of thought, freedom of religious belief."
But California Sen. Richard Pan (D) told Politico that people also “have the right to send their children to school without exposing them to preventable, serious diseases like measles.”
Pan said he was threatened with violence after he introduced CA SB277 in 2015 in response to the Disneyland measles outbreak.
After that law was implemented, the vaccination rate in California went from 92.9 percent in the 2015-2016 school year to 95.1 percent.
Pan is concerned that growing exemptions in the state could hinder the progress.