The Connecticut State Senate has passed a bill that would remove the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations in schools.
In a 22 to 14 vote, the Senate passed the controversial bill, which reportedly drew huge crowds of thousands to the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 27 of parents and concerned citizens who were against the legislation and opposed the removal of religious exemptions.
Lawmakers have stated that a highly contagious disease could quickly spread throughout a school system without vaccinations, while arguing that some parents have abused the exemption by using it for non-religious reasons.
“All we're doing is closing a loophole for non-medical exemption," Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff stated. "People are abusing quote-unquote religious exemptions for non-religious reasons only because they don't believe in health and science.”
The bill will grandfather in students attending K-12 with non-medical exemptions, officials noted. Children not yet enrolled in school will not be able to do so unless they’ve received vaccinations for maladies such as measles, mumps, and rubella.
As of the 2019-20 school year, the most recent data available, 8,328 students elected the exemption, up from 7,782 in 2018-19 and 7,042 in 2017-18.
Moving forward, only exemptions will be made for medical concerns.
“It is a protection first and foremost of a large number of students who are immuno-suppressed and immuno-compromised who cannot safely go to school unless they can count on the herd immunity that's created by having the vast majority of their classmates safely vaccinated,” Sen. Martin Looney added.
According to multiple reports, thousands protested outside the State Capitol as legislators debated the bill for hours before voting at approximately 9 p.m. The bill now advances to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk to be signed into law.
The proposal easily was passed in the House last week. If approved by Lamont, which is expected, Connecticut would become the sixth state without a religious exemption.
“This is about the 10-year-old-student who perhaps has an autoimmune deficiency and can’t get vaccinated. That kid faces challenges every day that none of us in this chamber could possibly imagine,” Sen. Will Haskell stated.
“Surely, it’s our job to make sure that kid can go to school safely. In order for that to happen, his classmates need to be vaccinated against measles and mumps and rubella; it is their herd immunity (and) that keeps that student safe.”
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