Maine Bill to End Personal Vaccine Opt-Outs Heads to Governor

The Senate voted 19-16 Thursday to enact the bill, which would end the state's religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines

A bill to end Maine's religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines is heading to the governor's desk.

The Senate voted 19-16 Thursday to enact the bill, which would end the state's religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines.

Gov. Janet Mills' administration has backed the bill ending non-medical vaccine opt-outs by 2021 for schoolchildren, as well as nursery school and health care facility employees.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says Maine would become the fourth state without religious exemptions.

Maine's Senate previously supported protecting religious exemptions. But the original bill later passed the House and Senate.

Health officials say Maine's exemption rates are rising and endanger children who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

"Once the government wields the power to inject anything it wants into your body, there is nothing off limits," said state representative, Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta.

This week, Maine's Centers for Disease Control confirmed its first case of measles since 2017 involving a vaccinated child in Madison, a town in the central part of the state. That child has since recovered.

"We know that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks," said Dr. Linda Sanborn, a physician who now serves as a democratic state senator.

Opponents say the bill infringes on parental rights and stigmatizes children.

Governor Mills is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming week.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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