Maine parents would have to consult with doctors before exempting their children from vaccinations required by public schools, under a bill that won endorsement from a legislative committee Friday.
But despite Maine’s relatively high vaccine opt-out rates, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to reject a separate bill that would have eliminated the philosophical exemption that has sparked a heated debate over vaccine safety and “herd immunity.”
The committee voted 9-3 in support of L.D. 471, the bill that would require any parent who seeks a philosophical exemption from vaccines to first consult with a medical professional and obtain a signature. Lawmakers from both parties supported the measure; the three dissenting votes were cast by Republicans.
“There are risks in every medical procedure and other things that we do in life, and I think parents have a right to weigh those risks,” said committee co-chair Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. “But I think this is an important step to make sure that important conversation happens with respect to something that doesn’t just protect the child being vaccinated, but other children as well.”
The bill could face tougher votes in the House and Senate, and a potential veto by Gov. Paul LePage.
Maine now allows parents to opt out of required vaccines for their children on both philosophical and religious grounds. The vast majority of exemptions are for philosophical reasons, a trend that reflects concerns in some segments of the population that childhood vaccinations could trigger autism or health problems.