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Virginia lawmaker wants parents held accountable for refusing to vaccinate children

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RICHMOND, Va. -- In the wake of a measles outbreak, the Center for Disease Control has warned parents to vaccinate their children.

"We are very concerned by the growing number of people who are susceptible to measles and to the possibility that we could have a large outbreak in this country as a result,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said on Face the Nation.

The CDC has confirmed 100 measles cases in 14 states so far this year, at least 58 of those cases are linked to an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California this past December. While the Virginia Department of Health said no cases have been reported in Virginia this year, two cases of the disease in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in April 2014, led to widespread concern for exposure.

Measles was officially declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but doctors said the anti-vaccination movement, prompted by a minority of parents who fear vaccines are linked to autism, has helped lead to new cases.

While most states, like Virginia, have public health laws that require parents to vaccinate their children, there are exceptions that allow parents to opt-out. In the Commonwealth, parents can opt-out for religious reasons or if their child’s doctor confirmed vaccines could be detrimental to the child’s health.

“We are paying the price for letting people opt-out,” Del. John O’Bannon (R - Richmond) said. O’Bannon, a physician, said some lawmakers would like to see legislation or legislative action that could hold parents accountable for refusing to vaccinate their children. O’Bannon said he would like the governor’s administration to also consider action.

Del. John O'Bannon (R - Richmond)

Del. John O'Bannon (R - Richmond)

“We understand that citizens have a right not to vaccinate their children,” O’Bannon said. “But we have basic public health laws that have been around for years that show measles, mumps and chicken pox -- all of these contagious illnesses -- are better served by having people vaccinate their kids.”