New child vaccination legislation introduced by state representatives in Pittsburgh

Two state representatives are introducing legislation that they say would promote child immunizations in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Pittsburgh, said his bill would require families to have annual meetings with a doctor if they want a non-medical exemption for vaccinations. Under current law, a parent needs to sign a form once for religious or philosophical exemption.

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Frankel said the purpose of the yearly doctor’s visits would be to inform families about the health risks of opting out, and the potential for children to be excluded from school and quarantined if an outbreak occurs.

“We are faced with a situation where loving parents are receiving an onslaught of misinformation, leading them to mistrust these life-saving tools,” Frankel said Tuesday at Kids Plus Pediatrics, a medical practice in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood.

Under legislation proposed by Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, school districts would have to publish on their websites the number of vaccinated and non-vaccinated students who are enrolled each year.

Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna County, said posting the numbers online would make that information accessible to parents while maintaining confidentiality to protect students’ privacy.

“This is my first piece of legislation, not only as a state legislator but as a registered nurse and as a mother,” said Kosierowski, who won a special election in March. “This piece of legislation will inform parents of the informed choice that they can make when sending their children to public school, and knowing how many children in that specific school have been vaccinated against preventable disease.”

The legislation has not yet been introduced in the state House. Requests for comment from Republican lawmakers were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Local pediatricians say they’ve been frustrated with parents getting misinformation.

“We have evidence-based, safe and effective vaccines that protect kids from vaccine-preventable diseases that we’re now starting to see grow nationwide,” said Dr. Todd Wolynn, CEO of Kids Plus Pediatrics.

Scary shares on social media are partly to blame, he says.

“It’s the notion of, ‘If it scares, then they share,’ and so, what we’ve tried to teach practices all across the country is how to use evidence-based communication methodology to listen carefully to families, to understand their concerns and to answer them point by point using evidence-based science guidelines,” Wolynn said.

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