Mike Pompeo says guard troops may need to go back home after the Trump administration’s hesitancy to change national vaccination policy
One of the government’s most powerful officials has declared that a National Guard unit will be furloughed without vaccinations.
Mike Pompeo, the defence secretary, said on Thursday that unvaccinated National Guard troops may need to go home to stay healthy and the troops could be paid after the threat of an outbreak is quelled.
“I’ve directed the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence to work with state governors to ensure that the appropriate vaccines are provided to all members of the National Guard,” he said in a statement.
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Pompeo’s remarks come after a measles outbreak in California that has made at least 137 people sick, including 26 people who remain in critical condition.
The outbreak, which has been traced to Disneyland, has prompted California to issue a message to parents saying that unvaccinated children can not be served in public schools. For almost two decades, state law has allowed a philosophical or medical exemption.
Budget proposals recently released by the California state government will provide funding for vaccines, not school placements.
California’s governor, Jerry Brown, who has not publicly commented on the measles outbreak, must approve the funding.
A federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity said a decision was made to inform troops of the vaccinations this week rather than wait until after the shutdown has ended.
New York state has also limited access to schools to parents who are already immunized, but New York national guard officials said the policy was changed after a conversation with US officials.
In California, six vaccinations needed for K-12 public school attendance are required: MMR, which includes the measles, mumps and rubella; DTaP, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; varicella (chickenpox); and measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
In the current outbreak, state health officials say more than 15,000 people may have come into contact with those who became sick.
The total number of unvaccinated people is unknown, but the California Department of Public Health has said that 30,000 people in Orange County had not been vaccinated for diseases that spread easily through the air. The county has about 1.3 million people, including nearly half of the state’s second-most populous county, Los Angeles.
In 2015, a measles outbreak in Texas led health officials to require that all children who are allowed a medical exemption be sent home from school until their doctor confirms they are immunized.
Dr. Robert C Nelsen, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said immunity is often related to whether a person is vaccinated or not as a baby. That fades with age, and is usually lost as early as the second year of life. Children who don’t get immunized are usually from low-income and Hispanic communities where parents have been less likely to vaccinate their children.