A California lawmaker is urging the state to make vaccines mandatory for all adults who work in preschools and day-care centers, a move following the largest measles outbreak in California in 15 years.
"This is not just a common-sense solution but makes scientific sense," said Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), who introduced the bill Wednesday. "One child's death is one too many, especially when it may be preventable. With the recent deadly outbreaks of measles and influenza, we must do everything in our power to protect California's children who spend time in day care."
Requiring day-care workers to be vaccinated against measles, whooping cough, the flu and other diseases would better protect infants who are too young to receive all their shots, Mendoza said.
"Children under the age of 5 are one of the most vulnerable age groups for contracting infection and developing complications from these very serious diseases," he said, "so it is critical that we use all available methods to protect them."
Currently, there are no vaccine requirements for day-care workers. Across schools, restaurants and the workplace, adults generally are not tracked for vaccinations as closely as young children entering school.
The stakes are high, given how quickly and easily measles can spread. Adults 20 years and older make up more than 56% of the confirmed measles cases in California this year -- most had no record of being immunized as children.
Some institutions already are taking action. KinderCare, a nationwide chain of about 1,500 day-care centers, said last month it would begin requiring measles vaccines for all staff working with babies younger than 15 months old. The chain also will collect records of measles immunizations for all workers. The move came as eight infants at a KinderCare in a Chicago suburb fell ill with the measles.
The California measles outbreak, which began in December, has spread to at least 157 people in eight states, Mexico and Canada, with 131 of the cases in California. The first cases were tied to workers or visitors at Disneyland.
Health officials said babies were particularly at risk of catching the highly contagious disease. Fifteen of the measles cases in California have been in infants younger than 12 months old, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Federal recommendations call for the first dose of measles vaccination, known as MMR, to be given at 12 to 15 months of age, with a second dose between ages 4 and 6. California law requires two doses of the measles vaccination before kindergartners can enroll, but parents may obtain exemptions for the vaccines if they say the inoculations conflict with their personal beliefs.
In Sacramento, other lawmakers have called on their colleagues to consider eliminating all religious and other personal-beliefs exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated before starting school. Medical exemptions would remain in place for children with conditions such as allergic responses or weak immune systems, and schools would have to make their vaccination rates known to parents.
Mendoza's bill, SB 792, would require all preschool and day-care workers to be vaccinated against the flu, whooping cough and measles. The bill also would require all workers to comply with the vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.