Republican lawmakers reject strengthening vaccination laws as measles outbreak spreads
Sick child with the measles (Shutterstock)

This year, America is experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in 20 years, and according to Politico, Democratic lawmakers in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, New York, and Maine have all introduced bills to tighten vaccination requirements for school-aged children — and Republican lawmakers have by and large rejected all of these measures.

On the flip side, in Mississippi and West Virginia — where vaccination laws are strict — Republican lawmakers are now proposing bills to make it easier for parents to opt their children out.

Every state mandates that children receive vaccines in order to attend public schools. But most states offer a religious exemption, and some offer a "philosophical exemption" that lets parents skip vaccines for virtually any reason — including debunked claims that vaccines are linked to autism or brain damage. (Every state exempts children who are medically incapable of receiving vaccines, like those with immune deficiencies.)

Measles is one of the most contagious known diseases, with each sickened person infecting 12 to 18 more people on average. While most people recover from the disease, it can cause life-threatening complications, like pneumonia and encephalitis. By far the most effective way to prevent it is mass inoculation.

The "antivax" movement has long been associated with wealthy, liberal suburbs. But between liberal stronghold states like California passing tough new vaccination requirements, and President Donald Trump endorsing vaccine conspiracy theories, the issue appears to be resettling along more partisan lines.