Gov. Lamont looks to end religious exemptions for vaccinations

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More than 1,000 Connecticut students are not vaccinated because of religious exemptions -- but Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday it is time to get rid of the option.

Lamont says he is worried about a big jump in parents claiming religious exemptions. New numbers show 4.1% of kids are unvaccinated. Last school year saw a 25% jump in religious exemptions.

But vaccine skeptics say there is no current emergency.

"The reality is that 25% of a very tiny, tiny number is still insignificant, and doesn't really speak to a public health emergency that would, in any way, be strong enough to pull children out of school," said Elissa Diamond-Fields, of Health Choice Connecticut.

The governor and Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Renee Coleman-Mitchell said Monday that they support repealing the religious exemption.

If state lawmakers change the law, kids would not be required to get vaccines, but they wouldn't be allowed in public schools if they do not get vaccinated.

Vaccine opponents say there's no reason to exclude kids from school when there is no current public health emergency. But Lamont disagrees.

"Sometimes legislatures like to wait until the emergency and then act. Wait for the bridge to go down, wait for that measles epidemic. And that's not the way you deal with public safety," said Lamont.

Some religious leaders are even saying a potential measles outbreak is too serious to ignore.

"Jewish law is clear: Those who are healthy must get vaccinated," said Rabbi Debra Cantor, of the Congregation B'nai Tikhov-Sholom.

If state lawmakers approve this change, it wouldn't take effect until Oct. 1 2021. It would not affect exemptions for kids who aren't medically able to get vaccines.

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