Georgia health chief worries lawmakers could eliminate all kids' vaccine requirements

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey speaks during a coronavirus briefing. (John Bazemore/AP Photo)

John Bazemore / AP Photo

Georgia’s chief public health official says she is worried state lawmakers could do away with all vaccine requirements for children. 

Dr. Kathleen Toomey warned the State Board of Public Health this week that the current COVID-19 controversies around schools have spilled over into childhood immunizations.

She’s referring to state Senate Bill 345, which would prohibit schools from requiring any vaccinations.

“I have to say that in the many years of work in public health, this is the first time that I am actually worrying that we may lose our childhood immunization mandates,” she told board members as she was asking for their help to make sure the bill does not become law.

Toomey said she is old enough to remember polio and other childhood diseases now extinct because of vaccines.

“I took care of kids with Haemophilus influenza B, I had children seize in my arms, I had children crippled from Haemophilus disease in their joints,” she recalled.

Toomey says there’s a danger that today’s parents do not remember such childhood diseases.

DPH Board Member Dr. Kathryn Cheek, a pediatrician from Columbus,  said she also remembers living through these “horrible childhood diseases”  and said she’d speak out against the bill.

 “This would be just such a setback and such a ‘back in time’, that those of us on the board just can’t not say something, because it would be horrendous to take that step backward in time,” she said.

Meanwhile, the sponsor of the bill to ban vaccine requirements, Republican state Sen. Jeff Mullis, says he only intended to address COVID-19 vaccines. However, his proposal, in its current form does not mention COVID-19.

He says he briefly spoke with Toomey and vowed to change the bill as it moves through the committee process. He said he only wants to stop schools from mandating COVID-19 vaccines.