Schlossberg, bipartisan partners seek an end to philosophical exemptions for immunizations

HARRISBURG, Feb. 11 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, announced today that he intends to sponsor bipartisan legislation that would limit the types of immunization exceptions granted in Pennsylvania.

Current state law allows for three exemptions to childhood immunization – medical, religious and philosophical. Schlossberg's proposal, which is also sponsored by Rep. Becky Corbin, R-Chester, would eliminate immunization exemptions that are requested for philosophical reasons.

"I am happy to work in a bipartisan manner with members of the Health Committee to attack this problem and improve Pennsylvania’ public health," Schlossberg said.

In the 2013-14 school year, Pennsylvania granted more than 3,300 philosophical exemptions, which Schlossberg noted was the most common type of exemption requested. In addition, Pennsylvania is in the top five states with the most unvaccinated children for the measles, mumps and rubella. Schlossberg said that this trend has caused the state's immunization rate to drop to 87 percent, which is 8 percent below the threshold for herd immunity.

"Measles, which was once thought to be distant memory, has returned to Pennsylvania, exposing infants and children with compromised immune systems to illnesses that can lead to hearing loss, brain damage and, in worst cases, death," Schlossberg said. "This legislation will ensure that diseases like measles don't become a public health crisis in our state. The science is abundantly clear: vaccines save lives."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states have similar prohibition on philosophical exemptions for immunization.

"As a parent, I recognize that my responsibility is to not only ensure the safety and health of my children, but to work toward the safety and health of ALL children," Schlossberg said. "Vaccines are important to protect ourselves and our loved ones, but also to protect those amongst us who are unable to be vaccinated due to serious medical reasons."