The Slatest

Are Your Kids’ Classmates Vaccinated?

Republican U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy
Bill Cassidy wants YOU to get vaccinated.

Photo by Lee Celano/Reuters

One freshman senator thinks parents should know whether or not their kids are surrounded by unvaccinated classmates at school.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican and medical doctor, suggested in a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing Tuesday that schools should do more to inform parents about students’ vaccination rates. “Enter, but beware, because over 50 percent are not immunized,” he said, paraphrasing a possible disclaimer. “It’s a Petri dish for measles.”

Mark Sawyer, a medical doctor and professor of clinical pediatrics in the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of California–San Diego, concurred with Cassidy.

“If we want parents to be informed about vaccines in general, we should also want them to be informed about the environments that they’re putting their children in,” he said at the hearing, responding to Cassidy. “And there’s no doubt that a school with 40 or 50 percent of unimmunized children is where the next outbreaks are going to occur.”

Sawyer noted that school vaccination rates are public information in California and posted on a state website. But, he added, that’s not as helpful as them being “right in the face of the parent as they walk in on the first day of school.”

Though he’s just started his first term in the Senate, vaccination issues are familiar territory to Cassidy. The New Orleans Times Picayune writes that he “launched an aggressive Hepatitis B and flu vaccination program for school children in East Baton Rouge Parish.” That effort, called the Greater Baton Rouge Hepatitis B Vaccination Program, helped 36,000 kids get the HepB vaccine, per his testimony before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in 2010.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of vaccines.