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Public Health Committee votes to advance amended version of a proposal to end religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The legislature’s Public Health Committee voted Monday to advance an amended version of a proposal to end religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations. The committee vote was 14 to 11 and moves the bill to the full House of Representatives.

The changed bill now proposes to “grandfather” in kids who already have religious exemptions, but new ones would stop if and when this bill becomes law, which is not a sure thing.

Many of the same people that spent an entire night at the Capitol last week for a public hearing on the issue flooded the legislative office building Monday in anticipation of the Public Health Committee vote.

Opponents of the change say the Public Health Department’s number of those with religious exemptions in schools is seriously flawed.

Matt Paterna of Milford who is a co-founder of Active Citizenry USA in Norwalk said, “Throwing out six to 10,000 children on data that is likely flawed is completely unacceptable.”

But the State Department of Public Health is standing by their data, saying the threat of a measles outbreak is growing because the number of those with religious exemptions is trending the wrong way.

Spokesman Av Harris explained, “We stand by the accuracy of the data that showed there was over the last 10 years, the number of people claiming a religious exemption to vaccination in Connecticut has tripled.”

There are 16 Democrats on the committee and nine Republicans who all came out against moving forward this year.

Public Health Committee member Rep. William Petit, M.D (R-Plainville) saying, “I think we need to look at this issue but I think we need to go more slowly.”

Ranking committee member Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton) saying, “I am somebody who believes in vaccines. My husband is a clinician, however, the way that we are going about it in this bill is just wrong.”

WEB EXTRA: News 8’s Chief Political Correspondent Mark Davis speaks to Rep. Jack Hennessey after the amended proposal to end religious exemptions for vaccinations passed

The compromise language allows kids currently with religious exemptions to keep them and go to school, but when and if the bill passes and is signed by the Governor, new exemptions would stop.

LeeAnn Ducat of Informed Choice CT saying, “There’s no one that is more deserved of religious freedom than others and this throws people under the bus who haven’t decided to have a family yet. This is not an acceptable compromise whatsoever.”

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