Public hearing underway as thousands want a say in the proposed ban on religious exemption for childhood vaccines

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Lawmakers seeking to get rid of religious exemptions for childhood vaccines are currently in the process of a virtual 24-hour marathon public hearing. Nearly 2,000 people wanted a turn to speak up about the bill.

Legislators say this proposal is about protecting public health, but parents of kids who have to be vaccinated say that is not what the facts show.

RELATED: State lawmakers gearing up for marathon session taking up proposal repealing religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations

“I have 1-year-old twin sons and a 6-year-old daughter that is in first grade that would all be removed from school and daycare with this bill,” said Katherine Kraemer of Griswold.

In Connecticut, 2.3% of kids in kindergarten aren’t getting vaccinated for religious reasons. Now, lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent parents from claiming religion as a reason to get out of vaccinations. But some say the data doesn’t add up.

Watch live: CT-N live stream of Public Health Committee public hearing

“We have put all our outliers outside of what we’re counting, so we are absolutely inflating vaccination rates within our schools but doing nothing about increasing vaccinations,” said Republican Sen. Heather Somers.

RELATED: Gov. Lamont gets first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Bloomfield

Proponents say unvaccinated students threaten public health. Opponents warn this bill would cause parents to pull kids out of schools.

“Families that are using exemptions are very committed to that choice. It must be understood this is not going to increase vaccination rates. You’re going to push these exemption-using families out of the schools,” said Karl Kanthak.

The legislature’s Public Health Committee listened to public comment virtually Tuesday. It would take as long as four days to hear the nearly 2,000 people who wanted to speak. So, lawmakers capped it at 24 hours. And many of the voices are in opposition.

“Government has no business interfering with a parent’s right to make medical decisions where there is a possibility of harm,” said State Representative Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport).

This bill would apply to children in Pre-K through sixth grade. Kids with religious exemptions in 7th grade and older would be grandfathered in.

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