Child Care Immunization Legislation

The Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) helped draft and legislation that would reinstate the child care immunization mandate. Vaccine advocates including House Bill 536 sponsors Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) worked with interested parties and impacted state agencies to refine the legislation’s language and ensure a new law would meet the needs of Ohio’s children and child care facilities. Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) introduced Senate Bill 381, a companion bill to House Bill 536. The following is a letter written by Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, physician and mother of three small children.

November 21, 2014

To Moms of Preschoolers:

My name is Sarah Denny, and I am a pediatrician, a mother of 3 small children, and an advocate for the health and safety for children. I am writing to you to make you aware of a serious public health issue and to ask you for your help. Currently, the State of Ohio ranks 49th in immunization rates for the 0-2 year age group and we are the only state that does not have a vaccine mandate for licensed child care facilities. As you probably have noticed, we are starting to see an increase in vaccine preventable illnesses, such as pertussis (Whooping cough), measles and mumps in the State of Ohio, especially here in central Ohio.

Proper immunization is critical to good health and public safety. The State of Ohio recognizes this with a law that requires certain vaccinations before children enroll in kindergarten.   However, many communicable diseases, preventable through vaccines, can happen before children start school.

As a nation, we are blessed to have a robust vaccination system in place. Our medical professionals counsel parents on the vaccine process. The Vaccines for Children program, administered in Ohio by our Department of Health, ensures that all children, regardless of ability to pay, can get immunized.

Immunization is the greatest medical achievement of the 20th century. We have reduced the occurrence of once devastating communicable diseases so effectively that some parents don’t recognize the dangers of failing to vaccinate their children on time. We must be vigilant in our efforts to engage parents on the safety and necessity of vaccines, as well ensure our public policies support a strong system of immunization.

National surveys show that 25% of children in childcare centers are not fully immunized. In a survey of parents, 74% of parents surveyed said that they would consider removing their child from a childcare facility where 1 in 4 children were not properly immunized, and 2/3rds of respondents said the child care centers should communicate to parents the number of under immunized children there are at the facility. The study, published by the University of Michigan indicates that most parents want strong policies around immunizations.

Ohio Legislators are currently debating SB 381/House Bill 536, which would require children, enrolled in licensed childcare centers to be immunized according to the recommended vaccination schedule.

Please consider contacting your legislator and telling them the importance of vaccines for our youngest children.

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