In light of the national measles outbreak, the Vermont Health Department is urging all parents with unvaccinated children to be immunized as soon as possible.
And in a related development to the ongoing debates over vaccines, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott says he thinks lawmakers should do away with the philosophical exemption to the state's mandatory immunization law.
There are no reported cases of measles in Vermont, although cases have been reported in Pennsylvania and New York State. So far 17 states have been affected.
Christine Finley, the immunization program manager at the Vermont Health Department, says there's still time for parents to vaccinate their children. It can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective, Finley notes.
"It's not too late to do it now, and I would recommend that if the child is 12 months of age or older that they should be getting their measles, mumps and rubella – it's called their MMR vaccination, which protects them against measles,” Finley says.
Finley says it's important for parents to know that measles is a highly contagious disease.
"It's one of the most contagious diseases there is,” she says. “If there's 10 people in a room, nine would contract measles if they hadn't been vaccinated or had the disease before … The other thing is it may stay in the room … When the child leaves, there's still some exposure there for a period of time after that."
Vermont is one of 20 states that allow parents to exempt their children from being vaccinated for philosophical reasons. Vermont has two other exemptions: for medical reasons or on religious grounds or for philosophical beliefs.
According to the latest report from the state Health Department, the parents of almost 6 percent of kindergarten students have claimed an exemption to at least one of the five mandatory vaccines. The vast majority of exemptions are philosophical.
Now, Lt. Governor Phil Scott is joining a group of lawmakers who think that exemption should be eliminated.
"When I see the effects of non-compliance of not having vaccinations, I think it really borders on public safety,” Scott says. “And I think vaccinations should be mandatory."
Rutland senator Kevin Mullin says he'll introduce legislation eliminating the philosophical exemption, because he says it's important for Legislature to debate this issue this year.