Following weeks of intense debate, Vermont’s governor has signed controversial legislation that will prevent parents from opting their children out of vaccinations philosophical reasons.
House Bill 98, signed by Governor Peter Shumlin without fanfare on Thursday, eliminates the exemption that allowed parents to opt their children out of vaccinations for philosophical reasons. The governor issued a statement that “.....parents should get their kids vaccinated.....” and that he had hoped legislation passed three years ago “... had worked to sufficiently increase vaccination rates. However we’re not where we need to be to protect our kids from dangerous diseases...”
The Vermont Division of the March of Dimes is a member of the Vermont Immunization Action Network. Executive Director Roger Clapp says it should mean an increase in the state’s immunization rate. “There are a number of kids who for medical reasons or because of their immune systems are unable either to get vaccinated or when they do get vaccinated their immune systems don’t react the same way as most of us and they remain vulnerable to these communicable diseases. And so really to protect those kids, and to protect all of us, from an epidemic it’s important to have at least a 90 percent vaccination rate. We think that by eliminating the philosophical exemption we’re going to hit that target.”
Dennis Morrisseau of West Pawlet is a supporter of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, which had worked to retain the exemption. He believes the bill is unconstitutional and expects there may be lawsuits in the wake of the governor’s signature. “We’re the first state in the nation to strip parental rights away from parents over their children’s health care. We are the first medically fascist state in the United States. That’s what the signature means. There was no reason to do it. There was no need to do it. There is absolutely no emergency of any sort. The vacc’s rates are very high here in Vermont. There wasn’t a reason on this Earth to sign such an idiot bill as that one, but Shumlin did it anyway.”
Morrisseau believes the medical science regarding vaccinations remains unsettled and says there’s too much profit-mongering by pharmaceutical companies. “If you’re going to vaccinate it’d better be on an emergency basis. Something we really all need or we’re going to die. Or you better allow those of us who think these things are dangerous to opt out. I will opt out anyway. No one is putting anything in my body or doing any medical procedure on me that I don’t want. I’ll shoot first. There’s no way you’re doing it. That’s the level of passion you’re up against.”
While Clapp expects supporters of the exemption will try to resurrect it, he adds that the governor’s signature brings finality to the issue — at least in the short term. “The legislature will want to see what the impact of this is so I’ll be surprised if the legislature will have any real appetite to take this back up over the next couple of years.”
The law eliminating Vermont’s philosophical exemption goes into effect on July 1, 2016.