HARTFORD — Amid the country’s worst outbreak of measles in decades, a vote to eliminate Connecticut’s religious exemption for vaccines could happen sooner rather than later.
A public hearing was held on the issue Monday, even though there’s no drafted bill to do it.
It's likely that a vote to eliminate the religious exemption would either come in the form of an amendment to an existing bill, or what's called an "emergency certification."
That’s where the House Speaker and President Pro Tempore of the Senate would jointly draft a bill to send directly to lawmakers without needing a committee vote.
Statistics recently released by the state show 109 Connecticut schools below a 95 percent immunization rate.
Matthew Cartter M.D., the Connecticut State Epidemiologist said, “We are fortunate enough that we do have some of the highest rates of immunization for our school children in the country, but, we have to be ready for any measles case that comes into Connecticut.”
It led to a public hearing at the Capitol Complex on whether to eliminate vaccine religious exemptions. Rep. Vincent Candelora, (R) House Deputy Republican Leader said, “Taking that away would prevent all of these children from being able to get an education, they would have to be home-schooled.”
We asked lawmakers if consideration was given to strengthening the rules around the exemption.
“We can’t ask for a litmus test for your religion, that’s just un-American so I don’t think that there’s a way to do that, said Rep. Liz Linehan (D) the Chair of the Children’s Committee.
It was standing room only. An overflow space was designated as the vocal minority held signs and ruffled feathers.
“How many people will never again vote for the party that inserted their decision-making over their parental right to choose?” LeeAnn Ducat, the Founder of Informed Choice Connecticut asked the audience. About 120 people held up their hands. Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious took issue with the demonstration saying that she was offended by the notion that her vote could be bought.
Rev. Ernestine Holloway of Meriden chased Department of Public Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell down the corridor to ask a question after her public testimony. The two got into a trite verbal exchange as the Commissioner said she had to run to another meeting. Holloway has two grandchildren with autism. Pregnant with a third child, she told her daughter to space out the MMR vaccine. “And guess what, she’s got a son with no autism, so I have my own data,” she said.
The state epidemiologist told Fox 61 that’s anecdotal. He says it’s been proven there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Connecticut has had 3 measles cases so far this year. There are active measles outbreaks in six states.