Connecticut has become the sixth state to remove religious exemptions from childhood vaccinations.
Gov. Ned Lamont made it official on Wednesday, April 28, signing House Bill 6423 “An Act Concerning Immunizations” which removed religious exemptions for children attending pre-K - 12 schools, daycare centers, or other educational institutions.
Now only select medical exemptions will be permitted for students entering schools and daycare centers.
The legislation was passed with the support of two-thirds of the Senate on Tuesday night and was passed by the House last week 90 to 53.
Lamont said that he and his administration have spent time researching and discussing the issue with medical experts, calling it “something that I take very seriously knowing the public health impact that it has on our children, families, and communities.
“When it comes to the safety of our children, we need to take an abundance of caution,” he said. “This legislation is needed to protect our kids against serious illnesses that have been well-controlled for many decades, such as measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough, but have reemerged.
“In recent years, the number of children in our state who have not received routine vaccinations has steadily been increasing, which has been mirrored by significant growth in preventable diseases across the nation.”
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.
The legislation has been widely panned by many in the community, with thousands protesting at the Connecticut State Capitol urging Lamont to reconsider the bill and a petition circulating that generated more than 18,000 signatures.
Now that it’s been approved by Lamont, the law will officially take place beginning with the September 2022 academic year.
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.
“I want to make it clear, this law does not take away the choice of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” Lamont said. "But, if they choose not to have their children vaccinated, this bell best ensures that other children and their families will not be exposed to these deadly diseases for hours each day in our schools.”
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