Vaccine opponents push to keep religious exemptions in wake of measles outbreak

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HARTFORD -

Hundreds of vaccine opponents traveled to Hartford today to fight efforts to end religious exemptions for vaccines.

Monday's hearing was only an informational session. For now, there is no bill to eliminate Connecticut's exemption, but vaccine critics believe it's the first step before last minute legislation is filed.

Medical experts testified that, if school vaccination levels drop, Connecticut is dangerously close to a measles outbreak.

If the law is changed, children wouldn't be required to get vaccines, but they wouldn't be able to attend public schools unless they had a medical reason.

This hearing comes just days after the state released school-by-school immunization statistics.

The report found that more than 100 schools in Connecticut are below 95 percent for children immunized, the level doctors say provides herd immunity from diseases.

Vaccine opponents say there are too many safety questions.

"I'm a paralegal for a vaccine injury attorney in New York City who represents families in the Federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and I see vaccine injury every single day of my personal and professional life," says LeeAnn Ducat.

The Federal Vaccine Injury Program says for every 1 million shots, they only compensated one individual. And among the claims that were paid, 70% were never conclusively linked to a vaccine.

"The 6-year-old in your son's class who has leukemia, your friend from church who just had a bone marrow transplant. We vaccinate ourselves to protect them," says Dr. Jody Terranova of the Connecticut Academy of Pediatricians.

There is no legislation right now to end Connecticut's religious exemption but there is talk of introducing a bill this year at the last minute.

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