On Thursday, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed legislation that removes the philosophical exemption from Vermont’s vaccination law. All students will soon be required to receive the mandated vaccinations before the beginning of the school year. The only exemptions will be for medical or religious reasons.
The legislation, signed by Shumlin on May 28, will take effect on July 1, 2016, when the exemption is officially terminated, according to the Burlington Free Press.
Gov. Shumlin addressed concerns about the new legislation, stating his belief in the effectiveness of vaccinations.
“Vaccines work and parents should get their kids vaccinated," Shumlin said in a statement. "I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. I wish the legislation passed three years ago had worked to sufficiently increase vaccination rates. However we’re not where we need to be to protect our kids from dangerous diseases, and I hope this legislation will have the effect of increasing vaccination rates."
Vermont residents will still be allowed to state religious beliefs and medical conditions as approved vaccination exemptions.
The Vermont House of Representatives voted to remove the exemption 85-57. Later, the state Senate voted in favor of a similar bill 18-11, with the final legislation being approved on May 14.
According to the state’s Health Department, 88 percent of public school students who entered kindergarten in the fall of 2014 received all the required vaccines to attend class. Only 5.8 percent of parents used the now-defunct philosophical exemption to not vaccinate their children.
The philosophical exemption is the most common way for parents to opt out of having their child get vaccinated in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports. Nineteen other states allow for similar practices, as well.
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