State News

Senate votes to repeal philosophical exemption for childhood immunizations

By Morgan True,

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday, April 22, that would repeal Vermont’s philosophical exemption from immunization requirements to enter kindergarten. The bill does not remove the religious or medical exemptions from those immunizations.

On an 18-11 vote, the Senate tacked on an amendment repealing the exemption to a House bill, H.98, which makes technical corrections to the statutes governing communicable disease registries—including the vaccine registry. The underlying bill passed on a voice vote.

The five required immunizations are for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox, and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).

The issue resurfaced this winter following a measles outbreak that spread to 19 states and infected more than 150 people, raising concerns about declining immunization rates nationally and in Vermont. Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, who led an unsuccessful effort to repeal Vermont’s philosophical exemption in 2012, was the lead sponsor of the amendment. Vermont’s declining immunization rates show education efforts aren’t working, Mullin said during debate over the amendment last week.For the MMR vaccine, more than 90 percent of exemptions claimed by parents were philosophical, according to Health Department figures.

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