Legislature passes immunization bill that preserves philosophical exemption

A bill that as originally introduced would have eliminated the philosophical exemption allowing parents to enroll children in public school without immunizations, passed the last day of the session with heavy amendments that in the end left the philosophical exemption intact. While the Senate voted to eliminate the philosophical exemption, the House voted 93-36 to keep it. Efforts to strengthen the bill in conference committee by giving the Commissioner of Health authority to remove the philosophical exemption if rates for MMR, DTaP, and Tdap dropped below a 90-percent threshold were unsuccessful.

In the end the bill requires parents to sign a yearly exemption form for religious or philosophical exemptions. By signing the form, parents would state that they have reviewed and understand evidence-based educational material provided by the Department of Health regarding immunizations, including:

• Information about the risks of adverse reactions to immunization;
• Understand that failure to complete the required vaccination schedule increases risk to the person and others of contracting or carrying a vaccine-preventable infectious disease;
• And understand that there are persons with special health needs attending schools and child care facilities who are unable to be vaccinated or who are at heightened risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable communicable disease and for whom such a disease could be life-threatening.

The bill would also require schools and child care facilities to make publicly available the aggregated immunization rates of the student body for each required vaccine and create an interim working group on protecting immunocompromised students and students with special health needs.

AAPVT and VMS will continue their efforts to remove the philosophical exemption - which this session included organizing a press conference to stress the importance of, and science behind, immunizations – and it was pleased to see an editorial in the April 22nd Boston Globe in support of the organizations’ position.


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