HARTFORD — On the heels of a nationwide measles outbreak, the debate surrounding a vaccine bill at the Capitol complex is more fiery than ever.
HB 7005 would send nurses a letter informing them of their legal right to refuse to sign a religious exemption form for parents who don’t want to get their kids vaccinated.
The bill tentatively passed through committee Tuesday providing that no members change their votes prior to 4PM.
Opponents of the bill are worried it would lead to a strike all amendment that would eliminate religious exemptions altogether. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter has said he’s interested in an up or down vote on that within the next year, but said this won’t be the bill to do it.
Debate on the bill in the Education Committee was spirited. But Rep. Liz Linehan, who shepherded the bill, said the debate with the vocal minority has turned ugly and personal outside the Capitol. “They took photos of my children and spread that around as well. I believe that is not a healthy argument,” she said.
About 1,200 kids in Connecticut claim the religious exemption.
House Deputy Republican Leader Rep. Vincent Candelora said, “That amounts to about 1 child per school district, so there are not a lot of kids who are exercising this right. The question is should they continue to be allowed to exercise their religious belief and I would say yes. It’s not posing a public health risk.”
But the CDC is reporting measles spread at levels not seen in the last 25 years.
The most recent Connecticut case was in February in New Haven County. “We talk about oh well we have a very high vaccination rate. Absolutely we do, but it’s falling,” said Rep. Linehan.
Parents say the bill forces them to home-school their children. “We don’t force anyone to do anything,” said Linehan.
The bill would inform nurses of their right to refuse to sign the religious exemption form. “They can still fill out the form and have a variety of other people sign it and they can still have school nurses sign the form,” explained Rep. Linehan.