by Flora Scott
The Vermont legislature is considering a bill, H 148, that would eliminate the religious belief exemption to vaccination. Spearheaded by Representative George W. Till ( D- Jericho), a practicing physician in Burlington, who has been troubled by the increase in people claiming religious exemption after Vermont became the first state in the nation to remove its “philosophical exemption.”
The bill was introduced last January and has been in the House Judiciary Committee since. Its language specifically references requiring vaccination before entering school.
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington) sponsored S153 earlier this week. It is similar to H148.
A philosophical exemption allowed parents’ personal beliefs, moral objections or safety concerns to decide whether to vaccinate their children. It was the most commonly used exemption in Vermont. At the time, 4 percent of Vermonters used philosophical exemption according to the Vermont Department of Health. In the two years after the policy change, the rate of religious exemption claims jumped from 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent.
Historically, Vermont had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. Vaccinated kindergartens entering school in 2014-15 were below the 95 percent mark identified by the medical community as creating “herd immunity” against vaccination-preventable diseases.
Till believes the pandemic has opened the eyes of Vermonters to just how important vaccinations can be. He told Seven Days in its 1/22/21 issue that, ”The truth of it is that there are very few religions that actually have an objection to vaccines”. He believes, ”People are really, truthfully just misusing the religious exemption.”