AUGUSTA, Maine — Protestors gathered in Augusta Thursday to rally against the mandatory vaccination bill now headed for a final vote in the Senate.

A group called The Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice organized the rally that began at 8:30 a.m and ended around 9:30 a.m. It is estimated that about 250 people showed up for the protest. They want the current religious and philosophical exemptions to remain in place, saying it should be a parent's choice whether to vaccinate their kids. And while some of the parents may already home school, others have said they shouldn't be forced to do that to avoid what they consider dangerous injections. Opponents say the bill would infringe on parental rights and stigmatize and expel children who don't comply with vaccination requirements.

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The Maine Senate voted 18-17 last Tuesday in favor of the bill in a preliminary vote. It would allow only medical exemptions to the vaccine requirement, which many parents have said are hard to get.

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 Many doctors and other vaccine advocates say the real risk is the spread of diseases that will happen if the number of unvaccinated children keeps rising. They say vaccines are safe and are the most effective way of keeping children healthy.

Governor Janet Mills is expected to sign the bill if it gets to her desk, although opponents say they are organizing a petition drive to try to influence the Governor and there is already talk of other steps to try to overturn the bill if it does pass.

The bill, L.D. 798, will eliminate non-medical vaccine exemptions for:

  • ALL daycare (public and private)
  • ALL preschool (public and private)
  • ALL k-12 (public, private, online, and charter)
  • ALL colleges and universities (public and private)
  • ALL technical, vocational, trade schools, and community colleges
  • ALL healthcare facilities