S.1458 / H.2151
Sponsored by Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Paul Donato
The COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the significant, persistent holes in Massachusetts' public health infrastructure. The Community Immunity Act is a comprehensive legislative solution designed to strengthen our infectious disease prevention efforts and support vaccine access and acceptance. The bill achieves this mission by facilitating robust data collection to assess gaps in statewide vaccine delivery, standardizing immunization exemption protocols for our schools and other youth programs, and supporting local interventions in communities lacking herd immunity against dangerous (and even deadly) yet preventable diseases.
Download the Community Immunity Act "At A Glance" summary sheet here.
THE PROBLEM IN MASSACHUSETTS
MA does not have localized herd immunity across the state for many vaccine preventable diseases.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) lacks comprehensive data on immunization rates in daycare centers, K-12 schools, summer camps, and colleges because data reporting is neither standardized nor mandatory.
Overburdened school and camp personnel are charged with processing vaccine exemptions, a process that should be managed and monitored by public health professionals.
There is no requirement to notify parents and guardians if immunization rates drop low enough at a school or program to put their children at increased risk of contracting disease.
MASSACHUSETTS BY THE NUMBERS
The statewide immunizations and exemptions data set for the 2022-2023 academic year is only 64% complete. In fact, less than half the childcare centers in the Commonwealth reported any data at all to state public health officials. DPH is missing data from:
Because data reporting to DPH on immunization rates at daycare centers, schools, colleges, and summer camps is inconsistent statewide and entirely voluntary, we do not know the full landscape of immunization rates across the state.
Here's what we do know, based on the available data:
Our infectious disease prevention infrastructure problems become even more stark when the missing data and concerning low immunization rates are viewed together, geographically. Take a look at these hot spot maps to learn more.
COMPONENTS OF THE COMMUNITY IMMUNITY ACT
This bill will promote and support localized herd immunity statewide through the following measures:
1. SUPPORT STUDENT HEALTH:
Consistent immunization policy and protocols across MA schools
Provides Massachusetts' schools, daycares, and camps with a standardized immunizations exemptions process, administered through the Department of Public Health (DPH)
Puts religious and medical exemption management in the hands of public health professionals instead of overburdened school administrators
Allows for private schools, daycares, and camps to set more stringent requirements for immunization exemption criteria
Allows mature minors, capable of consenting to medical treatment, to access routine and safe preventative medical procedures, such as vaccination
2. IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH:
Comprehensive data collection and regular reporting to parents and the public
Ensures yearly immunization and exemption data reporting from youth programs and DPH, including data currently missing from thousands of Massachusetts youth programs
Authorizes DPH to collect and share population-wide immunization rate data during any public health emergency
3. ENGAGE COMMUNITIES:
Help every MA community achieve localized herd immunity
Authorizes DPH to conduct culturally competent outreach in communities lacking herd immunity against dangerous yet vaccine-preventable diseases
Supports the families of immunocompromised children in selecting the safest programs for their kids