Senate panel takes up prickly issue of meningitis vaccination mandate – Topeka Capital Journal


Under current Kansas law, students attending college in the state are required to receive the vaccination. (File photo/The Associated Press)

Wichita physician Lynn Fisher offered unequivocal support Wednesday for legislation requiring vaccination of children in Kansas against the rare and potentially fatal meningitis.

“One way family physicians provide excellence in care for their patients is through a strong commitment to vaccinations,” said Fisher, president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians. “Meningitis can be easily spread. Meningitis can be deadly within hours. Meningitis can be prevented with a vaccine.”

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee’s hearing on a House-passed bill mandating vaccinations against the bacterial infection attracted a standing-room-only crowd heavily populated by Kansans opposed to the state government intervening in medical decisions of their children.

House Bill 2205 would mandate vaccination of children 11 to 16 years of age. Under current Kansas law, students attending college in the state are required to receive the vaccination.

“This is very simply a question of parental rights, parental choice and personal liberty,” said Patrick Watkins, an Overland Park father of seven children. “Second, it is a question of science and safety. Parents have the inalienable right to make health care decisions for their children.”

William Mize, an Overland Park attorney, said the legislation ought to be rejected because it didn’t include an exemption for people who don’t embrace mandatory vaccinations on religious or medical grounds.

The incidence of meningitis in Kansas doesn’t warrant passage of a state law to require statewide vaccinations, said Julie Clinesmith of Cheney.

“It would be no different than to mandate all humans wear meteor hats when outside on the rare occasion there may be a meteor that could hit the earth. Same silly logic,” Clinesmith said. “We should have freedom of choice that isn’t fueled by relentless fear mongering and hype to stimulate knee-jerk Legislature reaction to vaccinate the masses by force.”

Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the membrane covering the spinal cord and brain. Generally, protection can be provided in the long term through vaccination and treatment involves antibiotics.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which offered neutral testimony on the bill, reported the state has had 44 cases of meningitis during the last five years.


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