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Public hearing on vaccine exemption in CT

Those against the bill argued it would take away their right to choose.

HARTFORD, Connecticut — The public health committee is hearing testimony Tuesday, on a bill that would remove the religious exemption for vaccines for children attending school. S.B. 568 An Act Eliminating the Nonmedical Exemption to the Immunization Requirement would only allow for medical exemptions if passed. The public hearing is being held virtually and has a limit of 24 hours.

Those against the bill argued it would take away their right to choose.

"One size does not fit all. My body my choice means my body choice. That falls and carries over to my child, my choice," said Melissa Sullivan, who testified in front of the committee.

Other parents disagree, like Avon's mom Kerri Raissain. She says her son contracted chickenpox before he was able to get vaccinated. She argues that another person's decision to not vaccinate their child could impact other families.

"The idea that another parent could on their own decide to expose my child to a vaccine-preventable disease, it gives you pause and it's shocking," she said.

Also testifying in favor of the bill, is Dr. Jody Terranova, President-Elect of the CT chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says the bill would help protect children who do have medical exemptions, especially in school settings where illnesses can spread quickly.

"Being able to ensure that children can be as safe as possible in that setting, we can never ensure 100% safety, but we'd like to get as close as possible," she said.

Watch the Public Hearing: 

Proponents of the bill argue that the religious exemption is being used more like the philosophical exemption Connecticut got rid of years ago. Some opposed to the bill said that isn't true.

"Statements like this leave me feeling that my faith and my God does not matter here in Connecticut. I cannot imagine the disappointment my son will feel if I tell him he cannot enroll in school or camp next year because our religion does not matter to the state," said Catherine Ambrose of Wilton.

According to the Department of Public Health, the percentage of kindergarten students with a religious exemption was 2.3% for the 2019-2020 school year. That is down 0.2% from the previous year, but up 0.9% from the 2012-2013 school year.

Credit: State of Connecticut

The public testimony for this bill is expected to last overnight.

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