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‘My body, my choice’: Thousands converge on the Capitol to protect religious exemption to vaccinations


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The crowd at the Capitol Complex Wednesday peaked to over 1,000 people, emotions running high. A majority are protesting the state’s plan to ban the religious exemption of childhood vaccinations.

RELATED: Thousands turn out for public hearing on vaccination religious exemption

More than 3,000 pieces of testimony were submitted to the Public Health Committee, while hundreds cheered and waved homemade signs outside the Legislative Office Building chanting, “Kill the bill!”

Inside, five overflow rooms were packed with people watching and waiting to speak to lawmakers. Many want to keep their right to refuse vaccinations for their children. For some, it is based on religion, for others, it’s a matter of choice.

RELATED: Public Health leaders: unvaccinated children could be in grave danger, put others in danger

For Gabrielle Sellari of Shelton, it’s both. She says her son was injured by vaccines.

“We started seeing the signs very early on and didn’t make the connection of a vaccine, but after each doctors visit his symptoms kept getting worse and worse each time.”

– Gabrielle Sellari, Shelton

Her family is among the estimated 500 who signed up to testify.

At the moment, 7,800 students statewide use the exemption, but lawmakers say the full scope of those affected by a ban isn’t known.

“We need to get our arms around this. If we are talking about 30,000 kids or 10,000 kids what is the impact of the legislation that we are doing?”

Rep. Vinnie Candelora/R North Branford

Many gathered at the Capitol say home-schooling their kids (because they theoretically wouldn’t be allowed to attend school unvaccinated) is not an option, and they will show up at school with an unvaccinated child.

Rep. Vinnie Candelora has reservations in his vote on the ban of religious exemptions because he says, there is another side to the bill that is unknown.

“The other piece of this is what ‘do the schools do on the back end? Do they have expulsion hearings? Does the State punish them if they don’t allow students in?’,” Rep. Candelora (North Branford) asked.

State’s like New York fine school districts $2,000 per student that shows up to class unvaccinated. New York’s ban went into effect last year after an outbreak of measles.

Connecticut’s proposed bill also says the State Health Department vaccine board would decide which vaccinations could be added to the yearly schedule without legislative approval.

Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell, from the State Department of Public Health explained, “Decisions may be made that are not to your liking, or the constituents concerns.”

Part of the State Health Department testimony Wednesday also centers on how much aluminum is in vaccines.

Many parents are concerned about an injury from chemicals. There is a liability issue. Many also question whether a child who doesn’t have all their shots and is on a ‘catch up’ schedule should be barred from entering schools.

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