The Senate has given early approval to legislation that will make it harder for parents to exempt their children from the state’s immunization law.
There are currently three exemptions: for religious, medical or philosophical grounds. By a vote of 25 to 4, the Senate eliminated the philosophical exemption.
The Vermont Health Department estimates that as many as 40 percent of all children under the age of 3 have not had all their immunizations – but that statistic is challenged by opponents of the legislation.
Windham senator Peter Galbraith said he was inclined to vote against the bill but changed his mind when he learned new information:
(Galbraith) "Not all immunizations work. Not all children can be immunized and further un-immunized children can bring diseases to the younger siblings of those who are immunized. And so this is not just about the parents who make a choice about their own children. It actually has a broader impact."
Chittenden senator Phillip Baruth voted against the bill because he thinks the philosophical exemption serves an important function for some parents:
(Baruth) "I am troubled though that we would remove the philosophical conviction as something that would be allowed to those who don’t profess an organized religion."
The measure will come up for final approval in the Senate Friday. It will then be considered in the House.