Senate reverses course, ends nonmedical vaccine exemptions

By Stephen Betts | May 14, 2019
Source: File photo

Augusta — Midcoast state senators refused to change their votes, but the state Senate narrowly reversed its stance and agreed to end all nonmedical vaccination exemptions.

The Maine Senate voted 18-17 Tuesday, May 14, to follow the Maine House vote to support LD 798. The bill ends both philosophical and religious exemptions.

Democratic state Sens. David Miramant of Camden and Erin Herbig of Belfast and Republican Sen. Dana Dow of Waldoboro voted against the bill.

The House had earlier voted for the bill. All Knox County legislators except independent Rep. William Pluecker of Warren voted for the legislation. Voting for it were Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, Vicki Doudera of Camden, Ann Matlack of St. George, Genevieve McDonald of Stonington and independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship.

"I feel the worry associated with low vaccination rates, but communication and education are always better options than regulation. Because of the lack of a thoughtful process with this bill, it will be interesting to see if the enforcement of this law brings another crisis to the Legislature," Pluecker said last month.

The law requires students to be vaccinated to attend public schools. The only exception is if there is a medical reason for the child not to be vaccinated, such as as a weakened immune system while undergoing chemotherapy.

The bill moves forward at a time when outbreaks of previously contained diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, are occurring.

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