As Ohio battles dual outbreaks of mumps and measles, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require kids to be immunized against common childhood diseases before they can attend state-licensed child care centers.
Ohio is the only state in the nation that doesn’t require at least some immunizations for children in child care centers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is a real public health issue. We’ve seen over the years, when immunization rates are high, it really does make a difference,” said state Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Gallipolis.
There are 8,269 state licensed child care providers, including 4,120 centers. All told the licensed facilities have enrollment capacity of 350,002, according to state data.
The Ohio Department of Health is tracking 73 confirmed measles cases in six counties, including five that have required hospitalization. And the department is investigating an even larger outbreak of mumps: 346 cases, including one in Clark County, two in Hamilton County and one in Warren County. The mumps cases began in January and have infected people from infancy to age 80.
Dayton Children’s Hospital announced this week that it has seen two mumps cases that have yet to be confirmed by the Ohio Department of Health and the Greene County Combined Health District.
Child care centers often require vaccinations for enrollment but there is no state law backing it up, according to the Immunization Advocacy Network of Ohio.
“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,” the group said in an advocacy letter.
Ohio’s immunization rate — 66.8 percent — trails the national rate of 68.4 percent.
Antonio said she hopes that the media and public health attention being paid to the mumps and measles outbreaks will shine a light on the need to increase the immunization rates in Ohio and her bill may be one mechanism.
“At the end of the day, it could mean more of our children are immunized and healthier,” she said.
By Laura A. Bischoff - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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