Seven states mulling legislation to skip mandatory immunizations

Lawmakers in seven states are weighing legislation to make it easier for parents to skip mandatory immunization requirements for their children.

Currently, all but two states, West Virginia and Mississippi, as well as the District of Colombia, allow parents to opt out of school vaccination requirements based on their religious beliefs. Those two states are now considering offering exemptions based on philosophical beliefs, according to USA Today.

West Virginia state Senator Donna Boley, a republican who is sponsoring one of the bills, said that a philosophical exemption would allow parents to skip their child's vaccinations for their own reasons.

"I've had parents encourage me for quite some time that would like to be in charge of what's put into their children's bodies," Boley said, USA Today reports.

Diane Peterson, an associate director at the Immunization Action Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to raising vaccination rates, said the move is not in the appropriate direction.

Nineteen states allow philosophical objections to vaccination. Similar bills that would allow philosophical exemptions have been introduced in five other states. Lawmakers in South Dakota recently rejected two bills that would have granted philosophical objections, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

The move to expand philosophical objections is alarming to many public health experts. Wendell Hoffman, an infectious diseases doctor in South Dakota, argues that vaccinations remain critical in keeping a lid on dangerous diseases that once ravaged the country.

"Your eyes are not deceiving you if you notice that small pox, polio, measles and rubella have been eliminated from the United States in 1949, 1979, 2000 to 2004 respectively," Hoffman told South Dakota lawmakers, USA Today reports.