JEFFERSON CITY - Both House and Senate committees have cleared legislation designed to assure more Missouri children are immunized against diseases.
According to the Missouri Health Department 73,000 babies are born in Missouri every year, but only 64 percent will be immunized by the age of two.
The plan to raise that rate is moving forward as both House and Senate committees passed legislation that supporters say will raise the child-immunization rates to 70 percent by the end of the year and 90 percent by the end of 1997.
Last week, the House Children's Committee and the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee voted the legislation to their respective floors, but the versions they passed are not the same.
Both the House and Senate bills enable parents to delegate authority to other adults to have their children immunized.
The bills differ in the age they require insurance companies to cover immunizations - the House requires coverage until age five while the Senate requires coverage only to age three.
But Sen. Roseanne Bentley, R-Springfield and a sponsor of the legislation, said she expects amendments on the Senate floor that could raise the age to five, but added the age change "may have trouble passing."
On the House side Rep. Greg Canuteson, D-Liberty and sponsor of the bill, doesn't see a problem with passage.
"I think with this being a priority bill with the weight of the governor's office behind it, and the fact that it's a very good bill, I can't imagine anyone would oppose it."
Gov. Mel Carnahan has made the issue one of his legislative priorities.
Bentley said she doesn't expect any trouble in reconciling the two bills if they both pass in their chambers.
"It's a good bill for children and a good bill for the state," she said.
Rep. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis and chairman of the House Committee, said the section enabling parents to delegate authority for their children's immunization is still in the bill despite questions of its is necessity.
"It clarifies the situation," Dougherty said, acknowledging that many parents already delegate such authority.
Missouri was ranked 49th out of 50 states in immunization of two-year olds in a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control.