In Pa., Immunization Not “Noncontroversial”

Rep. Mike Schlossberg wanted to honor World Immunization Week. Then things got complicated.

Last week, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Schlossberg introduced HR 229, a resolution that would recognize April 24th to 30th as World Immunization Week in the state. (See the resolution below.)

Resolutions of this type generally sail through the legislature. Earlier this year, there was a resolution essentially honoring God. As long as no lawmaker objects to these “noncontroversial resolutions,” they pass. They can even contradict each other. The same day Schlossberg’s resolution was introduced, two noncontroversial resolutions preceded it: HR 225 (Forest and Paper Products Day) and HR 226 (Arbor Day).

Last year, the World Immunization Week Bill was introduced as a noncontroversial resolution and passed. But this year, House leadership referred Schlossberg’s bill to the Health Committee.

Schlossberg, a Democrat first elected in 2013 who represents part of Allentown, says he introduced the bill to “generate awareness of immunizations.” The committee chair, Tioga County Rep. Matthew Baker, is also a sponsor of the bill. Schlossberg figures the resolution will sail through when the Health committee meets.

“I’m 100 percent sure he’ll have a hearing and ask that the bill be approved unanimously,” Schlossberg said. “I expect it to go through no problem. I think they just decided with all the unfortunate and unnecessary controversy over vaccines that it was just easier to put this one through the committee process.” Rep. Mike Turzai, the Speaker of the House, didn’t return a request for comment on the resolution.

Schlossberg is also the primary Democratic sponsor of HB 883, which would eliminate philosophical exemptions for vaccinations. That bill, introduced by Chester County GOP Rep. Becky Corbin, is co-sponsored by Baker as well.

Schlossberg says he is a strong advocate for vaccinations even though it has not really touched him personally. “If my kid is exposed to a disease that they haven’t been vaccinated to yet because they’re not age-appropriate, they could get sick,” he said. “Not to mention a child with an immune disorder or cancer or a compromised immune system. They’re the ones who are in the most danger as a result of some very poor decision-making by parents.”

He says he’s gotten a lot of feedback on his pro-vaccination stance. A Facebook post about vaccines drew about 100 comments. (His one about pet vaccinations drew little feedback.)

“Within my district, the response is all bewildered positive feedback,” Schlossberg said. “People are stunned in how easy it is to get out of vaccines. I have certainly gotten a large degree of negative feedback who live throughout the commonwealth.… Those who are opposed, though they’re in the minority, are very, very loud.

“I’ve been compared to Hitler more times than I care to think about. Let me clarify: Schlossberg is a Jewish name. My grandparents have nine years of Holocaust concentration camp between them. And they are rolling over in their graves that their Jewish grandson is being compared to Hitler for trying to make the world safe from measles.” He says he’s also been called an “arm rapist.”

The House Health Committee is scheduled to meet again next week. Schlossberg expects his resolution to be discussed then. Regardless the fate of his bill, there is at least one piece of World Immunization Week activity in Pennsylvania: The Lehigh Valley Immunization Coalition has been distributing sample baby items and immunization pamphlets in Bethlehem all month.