Mississippi lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill this week that could change who is allowed to exempt children from vaccinations.
Currently, the state department of health is the only entity that can exempt children from getting vaccinations. Under the law, children in Mississippi have to get vaccinated before they can attend daycare or school of any kind. But a bill before the full House of Representatives could change that. It would give all doctors in Mississippi and surrounding states the ability to determine if a child needs a medical exemption. State Health Officer Doctor Mary Currier says she has concerns.
"I am afraid that the law takes the health department completely out of the process and that the schools will have to decide if these are truly physicians asking for an exemption or if they're something else," says Currier. "I'm not sure the schools are really going to have the capacity to do that."
The bill presently before the House is drastically different from the one that was proposed earlier this year. In the original measure, parents could exempt their children from vaccinations under religious or philosophic grounds, but through a series of amendments the exemptions are now limited to just medical reasons. Representative Gary Chism of Columbus is a cosponsor of the bill.
"The timing could not have been worse with a measles outbreak and whooping cough and some of the others throughout the nation," Chism says. "One thing it appears is doing right is vaccinating children because we don't seem to have the problems that other states have."
Until the House votes on the bill, it can still be amended back to its original version, allowing philosophical and religious exemptions. But Representative Chism believes there is very little support to do that.