Shumlin Offers Compromise On Controversial Immunization Bill

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(Host) Closing an exemption to the state’s mandatory childhood immunization law has become one of the most controversial bills of the session.

Governor Peter Slumlin has offered a new compromise to the legislation.

But as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, Shumlin’s plan is being criticized by both supporters and opponents of the bill.

(Kinzel) Vermont has a mandatory childhood immunization law but the law has 3 exemptions: for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

Last month, the Senate passed legislation that eliminates the philosophical exemption because of concerns that the exemption was being used by too many people.

Supporters of the bill point to the exemption as one of the major reasons why Vermont has one of the lowest immunization rates in the country.

At his weekly press conference, the Governor offered a compromise. Under his plan, the 3 exemptions would remain in place, but to qualify for one of them, a parent would have to meet with their family doctor and be briefed about the benefits of immunization.

(Shumlin) "We involve the physicians in helping to do better education, have them sign off on the fact that they’ve given that education and then let parents make the best judgment about their kids future that they think is appropriate. But I think the mistake that we’re making now is just making it too easy — without the educational component to dispel the myths and give folks the real facts about the benefits of these inoculations."

(Kinzel) Jericho Rep. George Till is a doctor and a lead sponsor of the bill to eliminate the philosophical exemption. He says the Governor’s plan will do very little.

(Till) "Pediatricians work very hard as do family physicians to get people vaccinated now. Just adding another form to be signed I don’t think will add anything to the benefit of public good and public health."

(Kinzel) Judy Jarvis of East Hardwick has not had her children immunized because of health concerns about the vaccinations. She wants to be certain that health care providers who represent an alternative approach to medicine are also included in the mandatory education plan.

(Jarvis) "I feel that it should also be a naturopath or a homeopath, other people that are educated on vaccines and immune systems that you could also talk to get an exemption."

(Kinzel) The House Health Care committee is taking testimony on the bill all week and the panel hopes to vote on the legislation in the near future.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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