from the sticking-it-to-diseases dept.
The New York Times reports that Mississippi — which ranks as one of the worst states for smoking, obesity and physical inactivity — seldom is viewed as a leader on health issues. But it is one of two states that permit neither religious nor philosophical exemptions to its vaccination program. Only children with medical conditions that would be exacerbated by vaccines may enroll in Mississippi schools without completing the immunization schedule, which calls for five vaccines. With a vaccination rate of greater than 99.7%, Mississippi leads the national median by five percentage points and has the country’s highest immunization rate among kindergarten students.
However, in recent weeks, the nearly unbending nature of Mississippi’s law requiring students to be vaccinated has been in jeopardy, with two dozen lawmakers publicly supporting an exemption for “conscientious beliefs” turning Mississippi into one more battleground between medical experts who champion vaccinations and parents who fear the government’s role in medical decision-making. “We have been a victim of our success, and people don’t realize how bad these diseases are,” said Mississippi state epidemiologist, Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs III, before lawmakers met to consider a bill that would have expanded exceptions to the vaccine requirement. Members of the education committee for the House of Representatives, in effect, endorsed the state’s current approach. By a voice vote, they advanced a heavily amended version of the bill that now calls for only technical changes to Mississippi’s law, which has been largely untouched since the late 1970s. The amended version of House Bill 130 puts into law the state's existing practice of granting medical waivers to children whose physicians request them, and in doing so, removes the Mississippi Department of Health's ability to deny such requests. "If a medical professional thinks it's wise not to vaccinate, then that will be the gospel," said House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon.