Most proposed bills in state legislatures from 2011 to 2017 sought to expand access to immunization exemptions, but the majority of bills enacted into law limited exemptions, according to a study published online Nov. 29 in the American Journal of Public Health.
Neal D. Goldstein, Ph.D., from Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia, and colleagues performed content analysis of proposed bills in state legislatures from 2011 to 2017 to examine trends and characteristics of proposed and enacted legislation that would directly affect immunization exemption laws. Bills were classified as provaccination or antivaccination.
The researchers identified 175 bills that were proposed by state legislators, with the volume increasing over time. Overall, 53 and 47 percent of bills expanded access to exemptions and limited the ability to exempt, respectively. Twelve of the 13 bills signed into law limited the ability to exempt. Bills expanding access to exemptions were more likely to come from Republicans and from states in the Northeast and South.
"Most bills proposed in state legislatures between 2011 and 2017 sought to expand, rather than restrict, nonmedical exemptions," the authors write. "However, and encouraging for public health, the bills ultimately enacted into law were overwhelmingly provaccination in that they eliminated or made it more difficult for parents to opt their children out of mandatory school vaccination."
One author disclosed financial ties to Merck Sharp & Dohme.