Fight over vaccine-tracking heats up in Florida as measles continues to spread across US

As the number of measles cases in the United States rose again in the last week, a battle is underway in Florida over the state’s vaccine tracking system.

A bill making its way through the Legislature would mandate medical professionals to report vaccinations to a state registry — rather than keeping the reporting optional.

In addition, rather than just requiring the reporting of children’s vaccinations, the bill expands the tracking of immunizations all the way through college until age 23. And, if someone gets an exemption, chooses not to vaccinate, or opts not to have their immunization record tracked, the state would record that, too.

The proposed bill to broaden the state’s current immunization tracking system — bills that are slightly different in the House and Senate — comes at a time when public health is a national concern and vaccine-preventable measles continues to spread.

The number of measles cases in the United States this year is getting dangerously close to the total for 2014, which had been the greatest number of people with the disease since health officials considered measles eliminated in 2000. In the last week alone, 71 new measles cases were reported in the country, bringing the total for the year to 626 people with the high contagious disease, and putting it on track to well surpass the total of 667 cases in 2014. Most of the new cases were in New York, but two states reported the disease for the first time this year: Iowa and Tennessee.

So far, Florida has reported only one case of measles this year in Broward County. As Florida health officials encourage vaccinations, the Department of Health has made a goal of bringing the state’s immunization rate for kindergartens to 95 percent. A new report released this week shows the immunization rate for kindergartners in the 2018-19 school year hovered around 94 percent. More than 13,800 kindergartens in Florida’s public and private schools have exemptions from mandated vaccinations.

Organizations that oppose the vaccine tracking bill — and required vaccinations — are holding a rally in Tallahassee on Tuesday, the same day as a scheduled Senate second reading on the bill.

“This rally is not about whether we choose to vaccinate but about preserving our fundamental rights,” said Ann Margo Cannon, a South Florida mother and spokesperson for the rally. “If the government is tracking our private medical information, what does it mean down the road?”

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