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The Missouri Legislature is focusing on vaccinations. Unfortunately, it’s not focusing on how we can increase immunization rates.

On Monday, a committee in the Missouri House held a hearing on a bill that would ban discrimination against unvaccinated children, the Associated Press reported.

It’s not our intention to dispute claims made at the hearing that some parents of unvaccinated children are getting “bullied” by health departments, schools or doctors. We do, however, take issue with testimony suggesting that vaccines cause autism. Solid science has disproven this persistent myth.

But, while Missouri focuses on these individuals who feel victimized, other states are tackling a more pressing problem: disease outbreaks.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that confirmed measles cases in the United States have risen to 465. That’s already higher than each of the past five years for a disease that nearly had been eliminated.

Also on Tuesday, New York City’s mayor declared a public emergency and ordered mandatory measles shots.

In a Detroit, Michigan, suburb, one school is telling unvaccinated students to stay home for 21 days after the last measles exposure. That school is part of a growing measles outbreak in the state.

These steps aren’t bullying; they’re measures to protect people from a growing health problem.

Missouri lawmakers should be focusing their remaining weeks in Jefferson City not catering to those who don’t vaccinate their children, but finding out why and how we can convince them to do so.

The AP reported U.S. vaccination rates remain high, but the number of children younger than 2 who are unvaccinated is growing. Many of those are reportedly from families who don’t have health insurance. Some probably don’t believe in vaccinations, for whatever reasons.

Part of the solution involves information and communication.

Religions need to communicate clearly their stances on vaccinations to their members.

Some Catholics, for instance, who have had vaccine concerns now have a definitive statement by the Church to refer to.

The Pontifical Academy for Life is a Vatican-linked society on biomedicine and law whose members are appointed by the pope.

The Washington Post reported, last month, the academy sent an updated consideration of the Catholic position on vaccination to the Catholic News Service, ruling unequivocally in favor of vaccination. In part, it said parents have a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others.”

Local, county and state officials, meanwhile, need to keep driving home the point that vaccinations are safe and effective.

Central Missouri Newspapers

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