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Will the religious exemption on childhood vaccinations be repealed in Connecticut?

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont will be addressing the state in the governor’s annual State of the State address on Wednesday ahead of the general legislative session. One of the “hot button” issues expected to receive some attention in the 2020 session is religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations.

The repeal of the exemption is slated for action in February.

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Those against mandating vaccinations said this bill will kick the door open. It’s not just about the current schedule of shots — they believe it will lay the groundwork to force people into flu shots and HPV shots, not just for kids, but adults, too.

Telling parents they have to vaccinate their children and can no longer use “religious exemption” to opt-out is expected to be an emotionally-charged debate at the Capitol this year.

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Melissa Sullivan of Health Choice CT believes this bill is a slippery slope to allow the government to choose a medical procedure for your child and potentially you as an adult: “We want to be able to make medical decisions for our children with our doctors.”

Health Choice Connecticut is a grassroots group of parents, doctors, and health professionals who believe it is your right to choose whether to vaccinate your child. Ramping up their message they just unveiled billboards on the highways leading to the Capitol.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter of Hartford says the ban is about protecting vulnerable populations. Ritter explained, “We have children who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and that’s who we are trying to protect here.”

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Representative Ritter and others are concerned kids with diseases like cancer can’t get vaccinated and are vulnerable.

But Sullivan says those kids are not in school. She explained that she does not rely on other parents to vaccinate their kids to keep her immuno-compromised child healthy.

State Health Department data released last year showed a spike in families claiming religious exemption and not vaccinating their children.

Rep. Ritter says he will not pre-judge what the bill will say beyond pulling the religious exemption, but says a delay in any mandate to allow students who use the exemption to “catch up” is dicey.

RELATED: Religious exemptions for vaccinations increase while immunization rates decrease for students in Connecticut

“The Governor’s office and legislative leaders think there should be some time for folks to get their vaccinations, but not a period that is very long.”

– State Representative Matt Ritter

Religious leaders in the Catholic Conference recently took a stand, saying, “The Catholic Conference maintains that all religious exemptions should be jealously guarded. Any repeal of a religious exemption should be rooted in legitimate, grave public health concerns.”

The tentative date for a public hearing on the vaccine issue is February 19th. All groups are expected here Wednesday to show lawmakers they are ready.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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