State Watch

Connecticut lawmakers vote to rescind religious exemption for school vaccination requirements

State lawmakers in Connecticut passed a bill Tuesday that would end the state's policy of allowing families to claim religious exemptions from the public school system's immunization requirements, except for those who have claimed them in the past.

The Associated Press reported that the bill passed the state's Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on a mostly party-line vote, and now heads to the state Senate. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) has indicated his support for the measure.

An amendment to the bill, passed minutes before the legislation's final approval, allows those who have claimed religious exemptions for vaccines in past years to continue to do so. The aim of Tuesday's bill was to prevent parents from using religious exemptions to keep their child from being required to receive a vaccine as a result of fears surrounding the vaccines' efficacy and safety.

Tuesday's bill will not apply to COVID-19 vaccines, which are not mandated under the state's vaccination protocols for public schools.

"Vaccine hesitancy is becoming a direct and serious threat to the public health. It demands a proactive approach, not a reactive one," said one of the bill's supporters, state Rep. Jonathan Greenberg (D), who added in a statement to the AP: "We need to act and act before we have an epidemic, an epidemic that we can prevent."

Democrats who supported the bill pointed to a rising trend of parents in the state who have sought exemptions for a religious reason as a potential public health issue in the making. The state's medical exemptions for vaccinations will still endure under the new law.

"There is a trend and we need to somehow stop that trend in its tracks to ensure that our public schools are safe environments," state Rep. Michelle Cook (D) told the Hartford Courant.