Legislation to protect New Mexico children from loopholes in current law regarding vaccination exemptions was introduced Wednesday.
Long time health-care advocate and member of the House Health Committee Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Bernalillo, introduced the bill. The change she proposes would maintain exemptions for documented medical reasons and for members of recognized religious organizations that oppose vaccinations.
However, the so-called “personal beliefs” exemption, which the New Mexico Department of Health estimates accounts for 60 percent of the more than 3,000 waivers granted, would be eliminated.
“We all want the best for our children,” Armstrong said, “and protecting our children – and all New Mexico children – from preventable childhood diseases is the right thing to do for our kids and for our state.”
Only 20 states currently have personal-belief exemptions, while 48 states grant waivers for religious reasons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“This bill is about protecting kids. Period,” Armstrong said. “Parents whose children have serious medical issues can easily get an immunization waiver, as can families whose religious beliefs don’t allow for vaccinations.”
Dr. Tom Rothfeld, an Albuquerque pediatrician, said that closing the vaccine waiver loophole was critical to keeping kids and families healthy.
“I have seen what measles and other devastating diseases can do to children. I’ve treated kids who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the consequences of preventable illnesses,” “There is absolutely no science that says that vaccinations are harmful to children – and they are far better than the deadly illnesses they prevent,”Rothfeld said. “I vaccinated my own children, without hesitation, and I do the same for my patients.”
Armstrong’s bill has not yet been given a bill number nor been assigned to committees. However, it is likely to be heard in the House Health Committee.