Vaccination debate in PA heats up

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- The immunization debate is heating up in the Commonwealth with measles and mumps outbreaks not far from our area.

A Pennsylvania state senator is proposing legislation that would eliminate certain exemptions that allow a parent to refuse a vaccination for their child.

Some lawmakers aren't on board.

“My kids have been vaccinated. All my grandkids have been vaccinated. Do I believe in it? Yes," said Laurie Agnone of Etters.

“I really think they should. It’s been proven over the years it’s working. It’s protecting the kids," said Luana Taylor, whose daughter is vaccinated.

Currently, there is a mumps outbreak at Temple University with more than 100 students reportedly infected with the disease.

There are more than 150 confirmed cases of the measles in Rockland County, New York.

Senator Daylin Leach wants to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions that allow a parent to refuse vaccinations for their children in an effort to prevent outbreaks like those from happening.

“I hate to have the state actually mandate much, but for the case of the safety of the kids… possibly," added Agnone.

Leach sent FOX43 a statement that reads, "The law requires us all to get vaccinated to attend school because that’s the only way we can protect the health of students who are medically unable to get a vaccination. At the end of the day, our top priority has to be keeping our citizens safe. And when assessing how to best do that, we have an obligation to respect the scientific consensus and act rationally. All of the science says that vaccines save many lives and stop the spread of easily-preventable but deadly diseases. It would be legislative malpractice not to do all we can to ensure that our children are protected.”

There is some push back though; Senator Mike Folmer and State Representative Frank Ryan both say they are opposed.

“I am vehemently opposed to the bill as it it currently written," said Rep. Ryan. “I don’t think we should ever get to the point where our society starts usurping the rights of parents, religious freedoms, and your conscious about what you may know is in the best interest of your child. I know a couple parents in my district, where their child, their eldest child, had an adverse reaction to a vaccination, and is in pretty significant bad shape."

He's not against vaccinations, but he doesn't believe we should be violating religious freedoms that date back centuries

“Pennsylvania was founded on that concept of religious liberty and to take that away is absolutely problematic in my mind," added Rep. Ryan.

Leach's legislation would not impact the state's medical exemption. That exists for anyone who has a pre-existing health condition that conflicts with the vaccination requirements.

There are several bills being considered concerning this controversial topic, including, "informed consent" legislation, proposed by Senator Folmer.

It would ensure vaccination information is given before someone consents to being vaccinated. Folmer wrote online, "I believe all medical decisions should be between a patient and their physician – including the right to informed consent or informed refusal in the use of vaccines. My goal is to ensure people are first given an explanation of the potential benefits and the potential risks whenever a vaccine is administered. Only then are people able to exercise their basic human right to decide whether or not to allow intrusion into their bodies."

Read more about that here. 

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