Berks

Opting out of vaccinations would take added step under proposed Senate bill

WEST READING, Pa. - As more measles cases pop up in the US, it's refueling the debate over vaccines. State Senator Judy Schwank from Berks County is trying to get Harrisburg to take action, and change the way parents opt out of getting their children vaccinated. It's called Senate bill 626.

As it stands right now, parents in Pennsylvania who want vaccination exemptions generally have to give a letter to their child's school to opt out. Under Schwank's bill, parents who want to opt out would need a doctor to sign off on a standardized form.

Schwank said the bill enhances safety. Opponents said it takes away parents' rights.

Schwank is the key sponsor of a bill that would create guidelines for parents who want to opt out of getting their children vaccinations generally required to enroll in school.

"So that we can protect all children in our schools and commonwealth," Schwank said.

Reading Hospital Doctor Debra Powell said she supports the bill, and urges people to take advantage of vaccinations for their safety and their communities' safety.

"These vaccines will prevent possibly life crippling and deadly diseases in our youngest patient population which is the most vulnerable," Powell said.

Instead of writing a letter to a school to opt out of getting vaccinated, the bill would require parents to get doctor to sign a standardized form. Schwank said the document will only indicate that a doctor gave information about vaccinations. 

Some fear that, somehow, the bill will require doctors to find a medical reason to sign off.

"Measles is a big one they are pushing right now out of fear it's a fear push fear driven thing," said Gennel Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said she never got her children vaccinated. She says she's done her research, and to her, the health risks aren't worth it. 

"This bill is forcing people against our constitutional rights to suggest have autonomy over our own bodies," Zimmerman said.

This bill would not impact parents who seek exemptions for religious, moral or ethical reasons.

Schwank just introduced the bill last week so it's not clear on when it could go up for a vote.


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