Massachusetts considers removing religious belief exemption from mandatory vaccination law

Hampshire County

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

State law requires children who are entering school to be immunized against five diseases including measles.

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

State Representative Andy Vargas of Haverhill filed the bill ‘An Act Relative to Vaccinations and Public Health‘ earlier this month to strike the language about religious belief and allow only medical exemptions.

Easthampton mom-to-be Emily White told 22News that in her search for a daycare provider, she’s asked whether or not they can inform her if someone has not been vaccinated.

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

Northampton Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell supports the bill.

In a statement to 22News Bidwell said, the City Council regards “religious liberty and freedom of religious expression,” but “when refusal to vaccinate in the name of religious expression begins to endanger the health of the public, then I believe it’s time to join the four other states that to date have disallowed religious exemption.”

The City Council Office told 22News that in Hampshire County, exemption rates are higher than anywhere in the state, and those rates are trending upward, with Northampton having two schools with the highest vaccination exemption rates in the county.

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