(Reuters) – Chris Barr had no problem getting his eight children exempted from vaccinations when they went to school. First in California, and later when the family moved to Arkansas, the natural healing practitioner simply signed a piece of paper stating that his personal beliefs didn’t allow the immunizations.
Such exclusions may not be so easy to obtain going forward. This year’s highly publicized measles outbreaks, which have infected more than 150 people in 17 states, are no longer front page news. But they could well have a lasting public health legacy. Already, lawmakers in at least 10 states are promoting legislation that would make exemptions far harder to obtain.
The proposed laws have been introduced in statehouses by both Democrats and Republicans and include a range of approaches, from requiring schools to post immunization rates to entirely eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions. But they all respond to one undeniable fact: Most of the recent measles cases have been in people who were not vaccinated against the disease.
Lawmakers say they are optimistic about the chances of the bills, though most of them aren’t far enough along in the pipeline to predict their fate. Many of the authors say the extensive coverage this year has helped their case.