Big Turnout Expected at Latest Hearing on Vaccine Exemption

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News 4

Connecticut lawmakers will hear again from the public about the latest proposal to eliminate the state’s religious exemptions from certain vaccines for public school students.

The General Assembly’s Public Health Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing Wednesday on this year’s bill.

The legislation is expected to be one of the most closely watched bills of this year’s short, three-month legislative session. Hundreds of vaccine skeptics and religious rights advocates rallied outside the state Capitol on the opening day of the General Assembly earlier this month, demanding legislators oppose any efforts to end the exemption.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport, the committee’s co-chairman, has said a working group spent the past several months trying to craft this year’s proposal. But he has acknowledged adjustments are still likely in the coming weeks.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has voiced support for ending the religious exemption. During his State of the State address, he said his administration plans to push for a “thoughtful vaccination program” considering the “infectious viruses threatening our nation and state from overseas.”

Opponents, however, argue parents and guardians should be the ones to make such medical decisions for their children. A large crowd of concerned parents is expected at Wednesday’s hearing.

Some lawmakers have also questioned why the committee was taking up such a contentious issue in a short legislative session that’s traditionally dedicated to mostly state budget adjustments. The panel on Friday also voted to take up two other contentious bills concerning advertising at pregnancy centers and the latest aid-in-dying proposal.

“When we take up issues like this, it will swallow up a lot of time,” said state Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.

While Steinberg acknowledged the committee will have a packed agenda this session, he said they “owe it to the state of Connecticut not to shy away from controversy.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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