The Public Health Committee on Wednesday heard testimony on a bill regarding HPV and meningococcal vaccinations, but that agenda item has raised the hot-button issue of overall vaccination mandates, and just what constitutes a religious exemption.
“I honestly don’t appreciate that the state would mandate me to do anything health-wise for my child. These are decisions that I make with my doctor,” said Suffield resident Melissa Suffield.
In his testimony, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health says she doesn’t believe there are religions outside of Jehovah’s Witnesses that expressly object to vaccinations, and believes that many of the parents objecting are doing so on the grounds of philosophy, not faith.
“If we give that right to an individual to refuse to be vaccinated, what rights are we giving to the community that is getting vaccinated from being necessarily exposed by an individual that is not vaccinated?” Dr. Raul Pino asked.
This is the question as the department and state lawmakers try to find a balance between individual freedoms of parental choice with the need to protect the public from infectious diseases.
Democratic lawmakers from Hartford, Cheshire and Hamden spoke about what they say is a need to eliminate a religious exemption to the state’s vaccination rules.
One Woodstock mother explained why she turned to a religious exemption to stop vaccinating her son when he was 2 because she believed they were making him sick.
She said she doesn’t want the state stepping in to curtail that right.
“There should be a separation of church and state and for the state to come in and delineate exactly which religion would allow for an exemption or not, would be an integration of church and state… and therefor unconstitutional,” LeeAnn Ducat argued.
The health commissioner said he does continue to support clinic vaccination exemptions in cases where people are allergic or potentially otherwise harmed by the medication, as determined by doctors.