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Religious exemptions restored in vaccine bill passed by Maine Senate

The Maine Senate voted mostly along party lines to end philosophical non-medical vaccine exemptions but kept religious exemptions intact

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate has passed a bill that would end non-medical vaccine exemptions, but voted to keep religious exemptions in. 

The Senate debated L.D. 798 Thursday, passing the bill 20-15. 

The bill, if enacted, would end philosophical opt-outs by 2021 for public school students, as well as nursery schools and health care facilities employees.

Senators did vote to keep an amendment that allows religious exemptions. According to the Bangor Daily News, Democratic Sens. Dill, Herbig, Luchini and Miramant, all sided with Republicans to keep the exemption.

The bill will now go back to the House for a vote with the religious exemption added.

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RELATED: Maine House votes to end non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccines

Supporters want to protect children unable to be vaccinated, while critics worry about stigmatizing non-vaccinated children.

Religious groups, Maine's ACLU chapter and pharmaceutical manufacturers report lobbying the bill. Republicans and some Democrats want to keep religious exemptions.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' administration backed the bill, which got a 78-59 House vote. Democrats control Maine's House 88-56.

Multiple studies have debunked claims that measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations increase the risk for autism.

Federal data shows Maine has among the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions.

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