HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Thousands of people showed up for Wednesday’s public hearing on getting rid of the state’s religious exemption for childhood vaccinations.
People who want to keep that exemption in place held what they called a “religious freedom conference” before the public hearing.
The proposal was prompted by an uptick in the number of children not getting their shots under the religious exemption.
The religious exemption is one of two ways students can attend pubic schools without getting their vaccination. The other way is medical, for kids with compromised immune systems and a doctor says they cannot handle a vaccine. The religious exemption had been for families whose religion forbids vaccines.
The trouble is, Connecticut has seen a big rise in the number of parents claiming religious exemptions, not due to religion, but because of a faulty study put out years ago that claimed vaccines cause autism. That study has since been proven wrong. Even the Catholic church, the largest religious group in Connecticut, has come out in favor of vaccines.
Here’s the big problem: if the percentage of vaccinated kids gets low enough, we lose the herd immunity that has kept those kids with immune system issues safe, so it is not just the children of anti-vaccination parents who would suffer if, a disease like measles swept across the state.
Governor Lamont is for getting rid of the religious exemption. He released a statement on the hearing Wednesday afternoon saying in part,
“It is more timely than ever that we have a thoughtful discussion on our state’s vaccination program so that we can keep our state’s residents safe and healthy. When it comes to the health and safety of our kids, it is our responsibility to act out of an abundance of caution. Vaccinations are safe. They are the reason dangerous diseases disappeared for decades. It is no coincidence that with the rise of social media spreading a campaign of disinformation over the last several years that has been widely debunked by the medical community, we have seen a steady increase in the number of children whose parents refuse to protect them from preventable diseases.”Governor Ned Lamont
And remember, no one is forcing children to get vaccinated. It would just be a condition for attending public schools, so homeschooling or private schools are still an option for parents with strong religious beliefs.