Gov. Shumlin signs bill eliminating philosophical exemption

The American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter today applauded Governor Peter Shumlin for his efforts to protect the health of Vermonters by signing into law legislation that eliminates the philosophical exemption to immunizations beginning July 1, 2016.

The bill, H.98, was passed by the Vermont General Assembly on May 14, and signed by Gov. Shumlin today (May 28).    

“Vermont’s pediatricians would like to thank Governor Shumlin, as well as the General Assembly and Health Commissioner Harry Chen, M.D., for their courage on this important issue,” said Barbara Frankowski, M.D., president of the AAPVT.  “Eliminating the philosophical exemption will no doubt protect the health of Vermonters by increasing the state’s immunization rates and ensuring that it is more difficult for deadly and debilitating diseases to gain a foothold in the state.”

By eliminating the philosophical exemption, the AAPVT says, the state has signaled just how important immunizations are to the well-being of not only children, but all members of society. 

“This isn’t just a private health issue that affects a single child or family, but a public health issue that impacts all Vermonters, in all parts of the state,” said Dr. Frankowski.  “As a community, we all rely on each other’s cooperation to stave of diseases that plagued generations before us, but that we are lucky enough to know little about today.”

According to data provided by the Vermont Department of Health, during the 2013/14 school year, 56 percent of Vermont k-12 students attended a school with overall immunization rates below the 95-percent threshold considered adequate by many health care professionals to maintain herd immunity.  Twenty-six percent attended a school with rates lower than 90 percent. 

Vermont has the lowest childhood immunization rates in New England, and the use of the philosophical exemption has more than doubled between 2007-08 and 2014-15.  In 2007-08, the rates of philosophical exemptions for kindergarteners and seventh graders were 2.7 and 1.7 percent respectively.  In 2014-15, those rates went up to 5.8 and 4.0, respectively.



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