Ohio requires certain vaccinations for school-age children, but it is the only state without a similar immunization rule for those attending preschool or day care.
That should change, and will, if a proposal introduced this week is approved by legislators.
House Bill 536 would require children to be immunized according to standards by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before attending any home or day care center licensed by the state.
The bill allows exemptions for medical, religious or personal reasons.
The legislation is timely, and necessary. Recent outbreaks of preventable diseases are evidence that more protection is needed for children.
A mumps outbreak in central Ohio has grown to 342 cases in 15 counties, and a measles outbreak has infected 68 people in Ohio at last count. That’s the most measles cases in the U.S. since 1996.
Health officials say the outbreaks are not surprising considering Ohio has fallen below the national average when it comes to children who have completed their vaccinations.
An estimated 66.8 percent of Ohio children received the combined vaccine series for measles, mumps and rubella, according to the 2012 National Immunization Survey. The national average was 68.4 percent.
That means there are thousands of children who are entering kindergarten who have not received early vaccinations. Reps. Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood, and Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, the sponsors of the bill, believe future outbreaks would infect fewer people if more children were fully immunized.
Parents must submit a medical form to a child-care provider under current law. But, under House Bill 536, the form would include space to note immunizations and require a physician’s signature.
There will always be some who refuse to vaccinate their children because they think doing so could cause autism, seizures, fainting, multiple sclerosis, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or other problems, even though research doesn’t support any of those claims.
Vaccinations, in fact, have likely saved thousands of lives and prevented many hospitalizations.
While mumps cases have dropped by 98 percent nationwide since a vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, the recent outbreaks show how diseases can resurface given a chance.
Advances in combating contagious, but preventable, diseases are now being eroded because health and school officials are failing to educate parents about the importance of vaccinations.
Having children immunized protects them, but also protects others by keeping mumps and measles, and other diseases, from spreading. Had even fewer children gotten vaccinations, Ohio’s measles and mumps outbreaks could have been much worse.
House Bill 536 can’t force a parent to vaccinate their children, but it would remind them that it is still the right thing to do.