Some Republican legislators are promoting a bill that would let more Iowa parents opt out of getting their children vaccinated against contagious diseases like polio.
Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, says he’s listening to the concerns of constituents.
“I believe in freedom,” Holt says. “I do not believe in the concept, in this context, that government should have the right to order parents to immunize their children.”
Under current state law, parents can get a religious exemption and their kids do not have to get a series of required vaccinations before enrolling in school. The bill would be more expansive and allow any parent to oppose immunizations based on a “personal conviction.”
Health care professionals and public health experts crowded into a statehouse committee room yesterday to speak out against the bill. Dr. Nathan Boonstra works at Blank Children’s Pediatric Clinic in Des Moines. He said the bill would mean lower vaccination rates in Iowa — and put Iowans at risk of contracting a serious disease.
“Some of the most tragic cases that I’ve seen as a pediatrician have been cases where a child suffered or even died as a result of a disease that could have been easily prevented from a vaccine,” Boonstra said.
There’s currently a measles outbreak in California. At least 20 measles cases there have been confirmed in a community of orthodox Jews who were not vaccinated.