Measles outbreaks are occurring around the world.
More than 130 people — about half of them ages 1-4 — have died in the Philippines, and 8,443 others having contracted the disease. Officials blame the outbreak on a fear of vaccinations.
Despite being declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, there have been five outbreaks already this year, including in Washington state. Three cases have been confirmed in Georgia, all in the same Atlanta family.
Every state has vaccinations requirements for children to attend school, but 47 states offer exemptions on religious grounds. Seventeen of those states also allow parents to opt out of vaccinations for “personal, moral or other beliefs.”
That doesn’t sit well with the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Some states are engaging in such wide exemptions that they're creating the opportunity for outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications," Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday in an interview with CNN.
"It's an avoidable tragedy," Gottlieb told Axios. "Too many states have lax laws."
If states don’t strengthen their their requirements, Gottlieb said, “… I think they're going to force the hand of the federal health agencies."
Gottlieb offered no specifics as to how the FDA would intervene, but he told CNN he hoped recent outbreaks would make state officials realize the need for vaccinations.
Reports of measles have made some people rethink the anti-vaccine stance.
“Internet-savvy teenagers are fact-checking their parents’ decisions in a digital health reawakening — and seeking their own treatments in bouts of family defiance,” the Washington Post reported.
For a child to be exempt from immunization on religious grounds in Georgia, for example, “the parent or guardian must first furnish the responsible official of the school or facility an affidavit in which the parent or guardian swears or affirms that the immunization required conflicts with the religious beliefs of the parent or guardian.”
Georgia does not allow exemption for philosophical reasons.