5 things to know about latest Ohio vaccine exemption bill

A local legislator is pushing a bill to only allow Ohio children to skip vaccinations for medical reasons.

MORE: Local lawmaker wants to only allow kids to skip vaccinations for medical reasons

The legislation follows several other bills concerning vaccines and also comes amid a measles outbreak in 28 states. As the proposals are considered by the Ohio General Assembly, here’s five things you need to know.

1. The latest bill is proposed by a Kettering legislator. 

The new bill, which would only allow vaccine exemptions for medical reasons, is proposed by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.

Lehner and state Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, this week asked colleagues to join them in sponsoring the bill to remove all non-medical exemptions from vaccine requirements for children attending public schools or child care facilities.

2. The bill is expected to stir debate and draw opposition. 

Conservative lawmakers who place a premium on individual rights are expected to oppose the bill. In other states, opponents to such bills testified that the measures take away parental rights and violate religious freedoms.

Related: Ohio schools challenged by vaccine exemptions, data challenges

3. The proposal comes amid a measles outbreak in 28 states.

The legislation comes amid a measles outbreak in 28 states involving 1,077 people — the largest number since 1992 and since measles were declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, according the the Centers for Disease Control.

“By eliminating non-medical exemptions, we can fill the need for improved immunization rates and ensure that Ohio children are safe from preventable diseases,” Lehner and Williams wrote to colleagues.

Higher immunization rates lead to better protection for everyone against vaccine-preventable diseases, and high rates also help protect babies who can’t be vaccinated yet, those with compromised immune systems and people with medical exemptions from vaccines rely on herd immunity to protect them.

4. There are other pending vaccine-related bills in Ohio. 

Ohio lawmakers are also considering legislation, House Bill 132, that would require school districts to tell parents how to opt out of immunizations.

Under current law, Ohio allows parents to opt out of childhood vaccinations for medical or "reasons of conscience." House Bill 132 would require the broad opt-out language is spelled out on the school forms.

Related: Ohio schools challenged by vaccine exemptions, data challenges

Also pending in the Ohio House is a bill to bar employers from mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment — something Ohio hospitals and other employers oppose.

House Bill 268 would allow workers to opt out of vaccines and prevent employers from requiring those shots as a condition for employment. Similar proposals targeting flu shots have failed in committee in previous General Assembly sessions.

Public health experts and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that vaccines are safe and effective.

5. Vaccination rates differ by school.

The Dayton Daily News previously reported that it can be hard to get good data in Ohio on what vaccination rates are in each community.

School district vaccination data, obtained each year by the Dayton Daily News, shows that vaccination rates can widely vary from school to school. Also there is no standard way to report vaccination rates, and some schools report low vaccination rates not because parents are opting not to vaccinate but because the school district is struggling to get all the right paperwork from parents.

Click here to search how many kids were vaccinated at your child's school for the 2018-2019 school year.

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