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Bill raises concerns with health officials about the risk of preventable infectious diseases in children

Vaseline 2 months ago

1280px Young girl about to get a vaccine in her upper arm 48545990252
Vaccinations for children are administered to help the immune system develop immunity against a disease. Image/Wikimedia Commons

CONCORD, NH – On March 7, 2024, the New Hampshire State House, led by a Republican majority, passed HB1213a bill aimed at eliminating polio and measles vaccination requirements for children entering child care organizations in the state.

One of the bill’s main sponsors, Emily Phillips, homeschools her children instead of sending them to public school. Another sponsor of the bill, Lori Ballholds a master’s degree in Education of Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities from Rivier University, where she graduated summa cum laude.

The bill was emphasized then NHPR had a story in which New Hampshire public health officials warned against passage of the bill out of concern that debilitating and life-threatening diseases once thought to have been reduced or eliminated could return.

According to the NHPR report:

Republican Rep. Ross Berry of Manchester, one of the sponsors, said the bill is about eliminating an “unnecessary paperwork requirement” that he called burdensome on child care providers. Berry, who runs a child care center, disputed the idea that the bill removes the vaccination requirement itself, rather than just the reporting requirements.

But Chan and other Department of Health and Human Services officials disagreed. They said that in their reading, the bill effectively eliminates vaccination requirements for child care enrollment — and even if that were not the case, they argued that those requirements would be meaningless without some way to ensure compliance.

The number of child care centers in NH decreased in 2020 from 495 to 287 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, thousands of people were dying every day. Even more were sick. Some still retain their symptoms and illnesses to this day in what is known as Long COVID-19.

Sequel to polio
A child with a deformity of her right leg due to polio caused by the polio virus, Photo/CDC

Poliomyletis, also called polio, causes 1 in 200 cases to cause irreversible paralysis to the victim. Paralysis occurs most often in the legs; 5 to 10 percent of paralyzed people die when their lungs become paralyzed and they can no longer breathe.

The World Health Organization defines polio as a “highly contagious disease” that occurs via the fecal-oral route in which feces pass from the mouth of one person to another. This passage results from poor sanitation or poor hygiene practices, such as children not washing their hands after using the toilet.

An estimated 1,500,000 deaths among children worldwide could have been prevented by vaccination against polio.

Measles is a virus that causes a rash and high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 unvaccinated children who contract measles are hospitalized; One in twenty of these children dies from pneumonia, and one in a thousand children develops encephalitis, which can cause deafness and/or intellectual disability.

1 to 3 in 1000 children infected with measles die from respiratory and neurological complications. Pregnant women are also at risk for measles, such as women who become pregnant while working in a child care center and continue to work there.

Measles is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles and polio are just two of the many conditions that affect children in group settings.

HB1213 amends Title X, Chapter 141 C of state law, which states:

  • All parents or legal guardians must have their children living in this state vaccinated against certain diseases. These diseases include, but are not limited to, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, rubella, rubeola and tetanus. The commissioner shall establish regulations under RSA 541-A regarding other diseases requiring immunization.

If the bill passes the NH Senate and is signed into law, it would eliminate the vaccination requirement for every child in the state attending a child care center.

According to Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, “Infectious diseases that were once eliminated from the U.S., such as measles and polio, are now making a comeback due to underimmunization.”