For much of the legislative session, Vermont has been embroiled in a debate over whether to end the “philosophical exemption” “” essentially a right of refusal for parents who want to enroll their children in school or child care without immunizations. The list of shots called for by the state Health Department and the CDC is roughly 20 by the time a child enters kindergarten.
The CDC and state health officials say Vermont is among the states with the highest exemption rates for childhood vaccinations. Some say it’s no coincidence that Vermont recently has seen an outbreak of one of the diseases the vaccines target: pertussis, or whooping cough.
In 2010-11, the latest school year for which data is available, an Associated Press analysis of state health department data showed Alaska with nearly 9 percent of kindergarten children exempted. Colorado’s rate was 7 percent and Vermont and Washington state each had 6 percent.
As the 2012 legislative session winds down, lawmakers are at celine bagsÃ‚ loggerheads: The Senate voted 26-4 in early March to eliminate the philosophical exemption; the House voted 93-36 earlier this month to keep it.
If no agreement is reached, the legislation will die and Vermont will remain among the 20 states that allow some form of philosophical exemption from required childhood immunizations. All but a handful of states offer religious exemptions, and all allow medical exemptions for kids.
Many of Vermont’s more vocal vaccine skeptics are active in alternative health and natural food movements and are critical of what they see as a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry. Stella, a homeopathic health practitioner, works at a clinic that also offers massage and herbal medicine.