Lawmakers Approve New Requirement for Vaccine Exemptions

The Connecticut General Assembly has approved a measure that would require parents to get the certification of a judge, notary or attorney before they can cite a religious exemption for their child's vaccination.

The measure is aimed at reducing the number of people who choose not to vaccinate their children.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has not yet signed the bill into law but many in the medical profession expect him to do so.

"I think so far the efforts have been incremental in encouraging parents to get their children, to have their children vaccinated, to comply with the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for full and timely vaccination," said Dr. Thomas Fromson, a pediatrician in West Hartford.

He said parents are always looking for ways to "beat the system" and the new requirement acts as another hoop of sorts for them to jump through.

"The idea of parents providing a religious exemption or allowing them to continue having a religious exemption encourages them to find a path to circumvent what we feel to be in the best interests of the child," he said.

Other doctors, like Dr. Ulysses Wu, who serves as chief of infectious disease at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, believe such a requirement does not go far enough. Wu said if the goal is for more people to be vaccinated against harmful diseases, the exemptions need to be shelved as much as possible.

"We have not only seen increases in vaccination exemptions in this state but around the country as well, and I think it’s something that the tide needs to be turned back," Wu said. "We are starting to see more cases of measles. We’re starting to see a lot more diseases that are preventable by vaccines."

Wu's fear is that more people will look at the religious exemption as a way around vaccinating their children.

Fromson is reminding parents that if a child is not immunized, that child puts others at risk for diseases that should be preventable.

"Parental belief should not compromise the safety and welfare of the rest of the children of the school" he said.

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