Washington—U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer joined with Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (all D-Calif.) and other colleagues today to introduce the Head Start on Vaccinations Act, legislation that would protect children from preventable diseases by ensuring that all children in Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide are fully vaccinated unless they have been exempted for medical reasons.
“The recent outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in California serve as a stark reminder that vaccination is a matter of public health, not personal choice,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our goal must be to vaccinate as many children as possible against infectious diseases. That’s the only way to protect children who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and the best way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases like measles. Ensuring that all children in Head Start programs are vaccinated is an important step toward that goal.”
“We must protect the more than one million children who attend Head Start programs nationwide from preventable diseases like measles,” Senator Boxer said. “This legislation is an important first step in the broader effort to strengthen our vaccination policies at all levels of government to help prevent the spread of deadly diseases.”
“Vaccinating children against deadly diseases, such as measles, is essential. Children, their families, schools and public places are safer and healthier because of them,” Congresswoman Eshoo said. “The Head Start on Vaccinations Act requires the approximately one million children in our country who are enrolled in Head Start programs to be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. This is a ‘booster shot’ for our nation’s vaccine policies.”
The new legislation would require all children who enroll in Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide to be fully vaccinated. Under the bill, parents of currently enrolled children in Head Start programs would be given 3 months to ensure that vaccines are up-to-date according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule.
Parents of newly enrolled children would have to submit up-to-date information on vaccinations or consent to allowing Head Start to assist them in getting their child vaccinated quickly. Parents could receive a medical exemption only if a qualified health care provider determines that their child has an underlying medical condition that would prevent them from being vaccinated, such as an autoimmune deficiency, chemotherapy treatment or a recent transplant.
Under the bill, Head Start programs would assist families in accessing the services they need in order to get their children fully vaccinated. Head Start has long been a leader in connecting families to health services by providing care on site or referring families to local partners to get free or affordable care.
The House legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Mike Honda (D-CA).
Groups supporting the bill include the American Public Health Association, the California Medical Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Trust for America’s Health and the Public Health Institute.