Massachusetts plans to remove religious belief exemption from mandatory vaccination law



NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – There have been two cases of measles in Massachusetts this year, raising concerns about the state’s current exemptions.

State law requires that children entering school be immunized against five diseases, including measles.

But if the vaccine endangers a child’s health, or if the parent or guardian offers a written statement that the vaccination or immunization conflicts with their “sincere religious beliefs,” a child could be exempted.

State Representative Andy Vargas of Haverhill introduced the bill ” Act relating to vaccinations and public health‘earlier this month to remove language on religious beliefs and allow only medical exemptions.

Easthampton mom-to-be, Emily White, told 22News that in her search for a daycare, she asked if they could or could not let her know if someone had not been vaccinated.

“I want to know that kind of information to know if my child is at risk for a disease or something like that, so it’s definitely something I take into consideration when looking for options.”

Northampton Ward 2 city councilor Dennis Bidwell supports the bill.

In a statement to 22News Bidwell said city council considers “religious freedom and freedom of religious expression,” but “when the refusal to immunize in the name of religious expression begins to endanger the health of the public, so I think it’s time to join the other four states that have so far refused the religious exemption.

The City Council office told 22News that in Hampshire County, exemption rates are higher than anywhere in the state, and those rates tend to increase, with Northampton having two schools with exemption rates from highest vaccination in the county.

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