The crowd outside the Legislative Office Building in Hartford grew steadily throughout the day Wednesday. Most of the hundreds were opposing a vaccine bill that would remove a religious exemption for vaccinations.
“Religious means personal beliefs. One of my personal beliefs is that no one should be forced to have something injected into them,” said Jacob Hill, a young teen scheduled to testify before lawmakers late into the night.
He was one of more than 500 who signed up to testify. Many of them gathered outside for a rally while they waited.
Their reasons for being in Hartford were varied. Some said they don’t want to be forced to vaccinate, that the decision should be a choice to them, based on their belief system and what’s best for their child.
“I’m pro-choice I don’t oppose vaccinations,” said Donna-Lee Miner. “A lot of times I feel people give people an ‘anti-vax’ label too quickly. We’re not always about getting rid of vaccination. We want people to make that choice personally, and make that decision with their chosen doctor, without being coerced into making that choice.”
Miner was with her infant daughter who she says has a compromised immune system. She added that she’s not afraid of what could happen to her daughter.
“it’s very important that people know even immuno-compromised people are not afraid. There’s no reason to be afraid.”
Others said they are very religious, and don’t want to have their child vaccinated because they don’t believe in injecting their children with some of the ingredients they say are in the vaccines.
One such mom is Jacob’s mother Cheryl Hill, who says her husband served in the military defending the constitution. She says it’s frustrating that both her religious freedom and a right to an education are being challenged.
“We’re a religious family. We have experienced vaccine injury, that’s a very real thing, and that’s what prompted us to do a lot of research,” said Hill. “And when we did that research, we were appalled at what we were putting into our kids. I swore a very intimate oath to God to protect my kids, and I will never do that to them again.”
The overwhelming majority of people were opposed to the bill, but there were people who are in support of it. Carey Shaw of Norwalk says he and his wife have been married for a long time. She was diagnosed with a blood cancer in 2015 and he says they take every precaution they can because her immune system has been wiped out.
“We depend on the fact that other people around us would have the common sense to be vaccinated,” said Shaw. “If people decide not to vaccinate, they get sick, they get in contact with her, her life is likely to be over. So that is very important to me.”
Kerri Raissian is from Avon, and came to testify about her 1-year-old who had the chicken pox. She said to took two doctors to confirm it because the disease is so rare.
She described how her child suffered for two weeks with an illness that could have been prevented.
“He was inconsolable,” she said, detailing the rash that spread all over. “I hope that they recognize that vaccines work and vaccines are effective. And we all have to have vaccinations because kids like Rory, immunocompromised friends, friends that are fighting cancer, MS, all other kinds of diseases, the last thing that should be on their mind is ‘are there other viruses out there that could hurt me.’”