Maine will no longer allow residents to use religious or philosophical reasons to opt out of having their school-age children receive vaccinations.
Here’s what we know
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed the new law Friday. It will not take effect until September 2021 and will include an exemption for children whose parents have already gotten exemptions for them. It also still includes an exemption for medical reasons.
Maine is the fourth state to have passed such legislation.
“As governor, it is my responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Maine people, and it has become clear that our current laws do not adequately protect against the risks posed to Mainers,” Mills told CNN.
While she acknowledged that “people of good will hold sincere beliefs on both sides of the issue,” she added, “Maine has a vaccination opt-out rate that is three times higher than the national average for students entering kindergarten and the state ranks seventh in the country for the rate of non-medical exemptions taken among school-age children.”
State Sen. Lisa Keim (R), an opponent of the law, told the Portland Press Herald, said that by passing legislation like this Maine was “pushing religious people out of our great state.”
In April, Maine’s Center for Disease Control reported that state “immunization rates among school-age children continue to decrease,” and that the rate of kindergarteners who had received the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella had fallen to 93.8 percent. 95 percent is considered to be the threshold for “herd immunity,” where enough of a population is immune to a disease to prevent its spread. During the same time period, the amount of non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations was on the rise.
When expressing her support for the law, Mills said that Maine had the worst rate of whooping cough in the United States.
In May, Maine also had its first case of measles since 2017.