New state legislation could change required vaccines for students

New legislation in the Massachusetts State House could change vaccine requirements for...
New legislation in the Massachusetts State House could change vaccine requirements for kindergarten through twelfth grade students.(generic)
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - New legislation in the Massachusetts State House could change vaccine requirements for kindergarten through twelfth grade students.

“When you see your child, there is nothing more…Nothing will motivate a person more than seeing this happen in their own home,” said Heather Pelligrini.

Pelligrini relived for Western Mass News an adverse reaction she told us that her daughter experienced from the second dose of the Hepatitis A vaccine 14 years ago. The series of events caused her to change her mind about vaccinating her children.

“I was so afraid, so afraid for her. I honestly thought I was going to lose her. The woman in the pediatrician’s office, I have four children, and I said ‘I have never seen her so ill.’ The moment she looked at me and said ‘I think you need to bring her to the ER,’” Pelligrini added.

She told Western Mass News that she’s fought legislation on mandatory vaccinations ever since that ER visit. Dr. John Kelley, a pediatrician with Rosewood Pediatrics and not Pelligrini’s physician, told Western Mass News that he speaks with vaccine hesitant parents frequently.

“I just tell them ‘Okay, we’re going to continue to have this discussion’ and I will bring it up every single visit, especially every well visit’ about vaccines and where they stand with the vaccines. I’ll give them literature and information, vetted information that’s based on peer-reviewed journal articles about the safety of vaccines and why we vaccinate,” Kelley explained.

While school is out for the summer, the state legislature has been in session and has been discussing several bills that could change required vaccines for kindergarten through twelfth grade students. As of now, students are required to be vaccinated for DTaP/Tdap, polio, MMR, Hepatitis B, and Varicella. If House Bill 471 is passed, it will add HPV and Hepatitis A to that list. Pelligrini told Western Mass News that, although her children will not receive either, she said the HPV vaccine, which is for a sexually transmitted disease, is particularly unnerving.

“We don’t really need to add mandates for childhood illnesses that aren’t spread in the classroom. There’s seemingly no logic for that and it definitely seems like an overreach from legislators of something that belongs between parents, their doctors, and their children,” Pelligrini said.

Kelley disagreed and firmly believes the HPV vaccine is necessary.

“Despite the fact that we don’t want our teenagers to be sexually active, it happens and this is like wearing a seat belt. If you put the seat belt on after the accident or is this case after the exposure, it’s too late,” said Kelley.

Another bill in the State House proposes the removal of religious exemption for parents, which is one that Kelley only runs into every now and then and never honors.

“They know if they ask me, I’m not going to write a religious exemption because I’m a pediatrician, I’m a physician, and I believe in vaccination and I think there shouldn’t be any exemptions for vaccinations,” Kelley added.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 45 states and Washington D.C. have either a religious or personal belief option.

As for the bills in the Massachusetts State House, there is no date set for a vote as they currently sit with the Joint Committee of Public Health.