The federal government’s top public health official said on Tuesday that an independent panel of experts recommended that the government require schools to provide children up to the age of 11 with a vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, briefed reporters at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon to explain the advice his agency gave to the Food and Drug Administration, which has drafted rules for the proposed new requirement.
The school-required vaccination requirements, which would be among the strictest in the nation, are aimed at protecting children who are at risk of contracting infectious diseases because they are younger and not as well protected as older children.
Doctors believe that many children don’t receive their required vaccinations at their first opportunity. Those vaccinated before age 6 are far less likely to be exposed to dangerous infectious diseases, because their immune systems are strong and they can quickly mount an effective defense.
The older children are, the more likely they are to experience complications from the diseases, such as high fevers, seizures and meningitis.
The proposal will likely face intense debate from pediatricians, who believe that some vaccines are too strong for young children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics voted earlier this year to support some public-health mandates that it generally opposes: require booster shots for children who are above age 11, require vaccines for infants who have not received vaccines for diseases, and require pediatricians to make written reports about children with illnesses in order to improve monitoring and tracking for those diseases.
Dr. Kristen Nordlund, a pediatrician in Tucson, Ariz., and a member of the academy’s policy advisory council, said in an interview that it might be difficult for many pediatricians to prescribe vaccines for children as young as 5, and that the CDC recommendations seemed “a little overreaching, a little overdirected.”
“I think that there is a point in between 6 and 11 when you can give a second booster vaccine to children,” she said.
Most of the details of the vaccination requirements will have to be decided by the FDA, which is considering the issue.
The CDC said it would not oppose school-required vaccinations for children with serious or preventable diseases, unless the vaccine’s safety was clearly in question. However, an advisory panel appointed by the president, the National Academy of Medicine, ruled last year that a vaccine for human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease, should not be required for schools.
A CDC summary of the advisory panel’s recommendation said it recommended that the proposed health standards include a time period during which health care providers could sign a general authorization from a doctor authorizing patients up to the age of 6 to receive vaccine by taking two vaccinations over a two-day period. The document said that this would help avoid confusion and make it easy for school officials to schedule vaccine information for children up to 11 who are at risk.