US Congress blocks Obama’s push to increase vaccinations

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Republican lawmakers are seeking to block the president’s proposal to increase vaccination rates

Republican lawmakers in the US Congress have joined forces to try to block President Barack Obama’s proposal to require children to be vaccinated for life.

Sens. Jeff Flake and Tim Scott have introduced legislation to prohibit the president’s move to require the vaccinations.

The move highlights simmering opposition within the party to a policy they see as overbearing and forcing parents to accept something they don’t want.

The president plans to announce the policy during his address to Congress.

“This is not a healthy thing for the community,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is from Kentucky and who was one of seven Republican Senators to vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ted Cruz of Texas also refused to support the bill.

Opposition to President Obama’s plan has gained momentum in recent weeks. Some religious and allergy-prone parents have criticised Mr Obama’s plan, while others point to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which came to the opposite conclusion.

Image copyright AP Image caption Republicans are concerned the policy will be pushed through without debate

The study by Dr Joseph Alderson from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development suggested children with weak immune systems are more susceptible to vaccine side effects than other children, and that the risks could outweigh the benefits.

The study also found that vaccinations are highly effective and pose no risk to children’s health when given before the onset of diseases which pose an epidemic threat.

Although, others, including Mr Scott have disagreed.

“The government shouldn’t tell us how to parent, or what to believe,” he said on Thursday.

In a radio interview he explained he could not back the policy, “trying to force someone to do something is really special in its own way.”

Senator Flake also said he could not vote for legislation that was not publicised, and that one of the points of his legislation was that the president had yet to outline the specifics of his proposal, and that the existing law would expire.

He also argued that the bill would be unfair to small businesses, as it would cover children aged six and under, and would impede their ability to refuse vaccinations.

Since his inauguration, President Obama has not publicly discussed vaccination policy but has campaigned for better vaccination rates.

On a visit to Mexico in April, he said children should not be “held hostage” by political debate, and highlighted the anti-vaccination movement as a threat to the well-being of a globalised world.

“We have to make sure that everybody can succeed,” he said in a speech to business leaders in Mexico City.

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