Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE penalty for failing to have a child vaccinated is $4, according to the 159-year-old Vaccination Act of 1860.
This could be the reason why the number of children receiving the MMR1 vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella has seen steady decline.
As of 2016, only 89 percent of children received this vaccination, which is the lowest rate since 2012.
While The Bahamas has not had a measles case since 1997, there is an outbreak in the US and other countries, posing the question of whether more can be done here to increase compliance to safeguard against a possible outbreak.
The law says: “Every parent or person having the custody of a child who shall neglect to take such child or cause it to be taken to be vaccinated, or after vaccination to be inspected, according to the provisions of this Act, and shall not render a reasonable excuse for his neglect, shall be guilty of an offence, and be liable to be proceeded against summarily and upon conviction to pay a penalty of four dollars.”
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands admitted yesterday this needs revisiting. However, it’s not a priority, he said.
“Now what we have to do is look at that 150 or so year-old legislation and determine what is appropriate (and) what needs to be changed etc. Given the fact that it hasn’t been changed in so long we would like it to be reasonable moving forward,” Dr Sands told The Tribune yesterday outside Cabinet.
“Yes the law does require that you have your child vaccinated within a certain period of time, but the Vaccination Act came out in 1860 and the penalty is only $4. So I think we have to revisit this moving forward No one could have anticipated that the world would see yellow fever again, that we’d see measles again, that we’d see diphtheria at the level that it is, that we’d see polio again.
“Not in the Bahamas but we are seeing it around the world if anyone can remember, but the iron lungs for people paralysed by polio; ward after ward after ward with people unable to breathe. We can’t ever get back there and that’s why effective vaccination strategies are so important.”
Last week, Dr Sands said officials were on heightened alert for the highly contagious measles disease, adding the country lacked the needed herd immunity to stop the development of an outbreak.
US media reports this week say measles cases have reached triple digits with 101 cases reported in 10 states since February 7. Of this number, 53 were confirmed and two suspected in Washington State.
As for the Philippines, since January 70 people have died and there were 4,302 reported cases, an increase of 122 percent.