AUGUSTA, Maine — Parents who don’t want to give their children vaccines have lost another vote in the Legislature -- and possibly the final one.
The Senate voted 19-16 on Thursday, May 23 in favor of the controversial vaccine bill and sent it to Gov. Mills. That decision followed an emotional, hour-long rally at the State House, the biggest gathering yet of the group that’s been fighting to keep current exemptions to Maine’s vaccine regulations.
Several hundred people, including many parents with young children, chanted, "We do not consent", and said they want to keep the current religious and philosophical exemptions to Maine immunization requirements.
The bill would eliminate both exemptions, leaving only a medical exemption. That medical exemption has been broadened, supporters say, but opponents say it is not enough to protect the many parents who believe vaccines pose a threat to their children.
Many of the parents in opposition say doctors are too quick to deny them. They argue the vaccines carry a risk for some children and say it should be the parent's choice to vaccinate -- not the government’s.
One of those parents was Jessica Creedon of Buxton, a teacher and parent of a child she says suffered a vaccine injury and is now in a wheelchair.
"If our right to decide what’s injected into our bodies is taken from us, what meaningful rights do we have? If our children are denied going to school or summer camp because we have made the informed decision -- what rights do we have?" Creedon asked the rally.
But that argument and others did not change the final vote.
Supporters of the bill, including Sen. Linda Sanborn, who is also a doctor, say the increasing number of children with preventable diseases, and the reported numbers not being vaccinated, make the bill a public health requirement.
The leaders of the parent rally say they intend to keep fighting the bill, the first step being to put pressure on Gov. Mills, hoping she will veto the measure.
Mills has not indicated whether she will sign the bill, but her CDC director spoke in favor of it.