New child-immunization standards, enforcement proposed on Beacon Hill

BOSTON — A law requiring immunizations for children is being considered on Beacon Hill, as vaccination rates in the state have declined and cases of infectious diseases, like measles, are on the rise.

The idea behind the bills, sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Rausch, (D-Needham), and Rep. Paul Donato, (D-Medford) is that immunizations not only protect the individual but also provide "herd immunity" by protecting the entire community -- including people who can't get vaccines for legitimate medical reasons.

This comes as Boston saw its first confirmed case of the measles this month after no cases since 2013. Overall, Massachusetts' kindergarten vaccination rates remain high, but recent outliers include the Waldorf School in Lexington, the Highland School in Westfield, and Tecca Connections Academy in Walpole.

The bills include the following proposals:

  • All childcare centers, grade schools, camps and colleges to have the same state-established immunization schedule
  • The state Department of Health would oversee the exemption process, so exemption wouldn't vary from place to place
  • Required reporting of immunization rates and data posted online
  • Require programs to inform parents when a program dips below a certain immunization threshold.

The bills would require the state to create and enforce immunization standards and make it more difficult to get an immunization exemption.

A different bill being considered would eliminate the religious exemption for vaccines altogether.

A public hearing will be held at the State House in December.