August is National Immunization Month – We Must All Commit to Protecting Public Health
August 23, 2021
By Tracy Najera, Executive Director
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and a time when most school districts are welcoming their students back to classroom. As with start of school year activities for many of us, this is also a time for well-child visits and getting caught up on routine yet critically important childhood immunizations. Recently, however, vocal opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations has sparked a wave of resistance to all vaccinations in general by small pockets of individuals who believe vaccinations do more harm than good.
This is troubling – especially when combined with reports that children have fallen behind on immunizations and well-child visits because of the pandemic and limited access to in-person services during periods of the public health emergency. These two issues – cases of vaccine hesitancy/resistance and children falling behind on planned immunizations due to disruptions in care – can spell trouble for children and our community’s ability to keep everyone safe, increasing the risk of dangerous outbreaks of infectious diseases that we have generally not seen in generations.
The public health community – from the researchers in labs, the pediatricians and doctors working in hospitals, clinics and schools, and the community health workers and visiting nurses – concludes that increasing vaccinations in our global population has led to a 95% decrease in vaccine-preventable diseases in the past 50 years. According to America’s Health Rankings, early childhood immunizations are not only safe, but they are a cost-effective in protecting infants and children from potentially life-threatening preventable diseases. Moreover, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), infants receiving recommended immunizations by age 2 benefit from protection against 14 preventable diseases.
However, there is a threat to these advances in science and public health. Today, the Ohio House Health Committee has scheduled a hearing on HB 248 (Rep. Gross), legislation that could further chip away at Ohio’s immunization laws, public health infrastructure, and tools in in ways that would be hugely detrimental to the progress we have made over the last century. Medical experts and partners from the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, and many others believe that this bill will threaten the health, safety, and freedom of Ohio children and families.
According to the Ohio Champions for Vaccines Coalition:
- The legislation requires exemptions to be granted for required immunizations;
- The bill does not requirement that individuals consult with a physician or other healthcare provider, nor is a provider required to attest to a medical contraindication or natural immunity;
- It drastically expands exemptions for medical contraindications signed by a physician and for religious and philosophical beliefs for state required vaccines for children entering daycare or school, which will result in fewer children receiving immunizations;
- HB 248 effectively encourages parents to opt out, which is very poor public health policy. In fact, the majority of parents who choose to immunize actually face a higher burden than parents who decline since immunization records must be signed by a physician.;
- The proposed bill places restrictions on private entities including hospitals that require immunizations for patient and employee safety; and
- Lastly, HB 248 does not prohibit employers from requiring vaccines but requires the same broad exemptions to be accepted and also prohibits employers from taking steps such as masking to protect other employees and patients.
CDF-Ohio is proud to sign on in opposition to this legislation as this change in our public health laws could prove deadly to children and weaken our ability to protect all of us against the next public health emergency.