Not long ago, Kansas showed strong bipartisan support for vaccines as a tool to support a robust public health system.
But bills with language expanding religious exemptions for childhood vaccine requirements were passed by the state Senate in March and now face the House when the legislature reconvenes April 25.
They are among the more than 520 vaccine-related bills introduced in statehouses nationwide since Jan. 1, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those bills, 66 specifically relate to childhood vaccine requirements in 25 states.
In Missouri, for example, legislators are considering a measure exempting private school students from vaccine requirements. In Louisiana, a bill in the House would prohibit vaccinations on school property and at school-sponsored events.
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Fewer than 10% of the bills will likely gain any traction, but the volume of attempts to roll back vaccine requirements is alarming, said Rekha Lakshmanan, director of advocacy and public policy at the Immunization Partnership, a vaccine education organization.
“Those are all chipping away at one of the end goals for anti-vaccine activists, which is completely doing away with school requirements,” said Lakshmanan. “That’s what people need to be paying very close attention to.”
All states require specific childhood vaccinations for illnesses