Earlier this year, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont signed a bill that made the Constitution State the sixth in the U.S. to revoke the right of parents to claim a religious exemption from child vaccination mandates that have been established by schools, universities, and day care providers.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the only other U.S. states without religious exemption loopholes for vaccines are California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia. However, the move has been controversial, receiving criticism even though just a week earlier, a second child in Fairfield County, CT was confirmed to have measles.
Read more about the CT religious vaccine exemption below.
Public Act No. 21-6: AN ACT CONCERNING IMMUNIZATIONS
The CT religious vaccine exemption, or Public Act No. 21-6: AN ACT CONCERNING IMMUNIZATIONS, applies to both public and private schools, colleges and universities, and child and day care centers. Under this new law, students who are in kindergarten and up who have already had a religious exemption in place will be “grandfathered in,” meaning they will not be required to obtain immunizations to continue going to school.
Additionally, Connecticut’s medical exemption remains in place to allow children with legitimate medical contraindications to vaccines to bypass mandates. However, parents with babies and children who do not have a religious exemption accepted prior to April 28, 2021 and who are not able to provide a medical exemption signed by a qualified physician will not be allowed to create a new religious exemption waiver.
Gov. Lamont Tweets a Statement About the CT Religious Vaccine Exemption
On Wednesday, April 28th, Gov. Lamont tweeted a statement just after signing the controversial bill, saying “Proud to sign this bill into law to protect as many of our school children as possible from infectious diseases as we can.” He further went on record to say “When it comes to the safety of our children, we need to take an abundance of caution. This legislation is needed to protect our kids against serious illnesses that have been well-controlled for many decades, such as measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough, but have reemerged.”
Although this move to protect public health makes sense to most people coming on the heels of over 9,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in Connecticut alone, the new law still faces staunch opposition from groups who are willing to trade community health and safety for individual freedoms.
State and Federal Lawsuits May Be Filed In Response to the CT Religious Vaccine Exemption
According to a lawyer for The CT Freedom Alliance, LLC and We The Patriots USA, Inc., litigation may be brought forward. Attorney Norm Pattis tells the Associated Press, “The notion that somehow the state government gets the right to cram its version of virtue down the throats of every citizen in this state is and ought to be offensive to every Connecticut resident,” he says.
Pattis calls it “far more chilling” that a government entity would infringe upon the rights of parents to make medical decisions regarding their child than it is to expose children in school and daycare settings to what he suggests is a “nominal risk.”
However, the Vaccination Alliance of Connecticut responded to the controversy in a written statement, saying “The exemption has been used in recent years to skirt the vaccine law, causing many schools to fall below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold of 95% needed for herd immunity against highly contagious diseases like Measles, Pertussis, Tetanus, and Meningitis, among others.”
Looking At Vaccine Exemptions Through the New Lens of COVID-19
The percentage of children requesting a religious exemption from immunizations climbed from 7,042 during the 2017-18 school year to a staggering 8,328 in the 2019-20 school year, per the Connecticut State Department of Public Health.
Senator. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, weighed in on the matter as the Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Public Health Committee and a medical practitioner who works primarily with lung disorders and has treated COVID-19 patients. Anwar stated, “When you see a clear pattern, it is important to be ahead of the curve and then make sure that we are able to address that.”