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Republicans propose six bills to lessen vaccine mandates in Maine schools

On Monday, the Legislature's education committee heard from the public on six bills that would lessen the vaccine mandate for schools in Maine.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers are hearing testimony on six bills to remove vaccine mandates in Maine. 

This morning, Republicans proposing these bills also participated in a "Medical Freedom Day" rally where close to 100 people who planned to testify came to hear about the bills.

The bills being proposed are:

LD 51 - An Act to Restore Religious and Philosophical Exemptions to Immunization Requirements.

LD 869 - An Act to Protect Education Access by Prohibiting a Mandate for Schoolchildren for a COVID-19 Vaccine or Vaccine Under an Emergency Use Authorization.

LD 1098 - An Act to Restore Religious and Philosophical Exemptions Regarding Immunization Requirements.

LD 1148 - An Act to Prohibit COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Students Enrolled in Public Institutions of Learning.

LD 1209 - An Act to Reinstate the Religious and Philosophical Vaccine Exemptions for Private Schools and Virtual Public Charter Schools.

LD 1228 - An Act to Prohibit Certain Higher Education Institutions from Requiring Vaccines Approved Under Emergency Use Authorization for Admission or Attendance.

Representative Gary Drinkwater, R-Milford, presented LD 51 on Monday to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. This bill would reverse the controversial vaccine mandate bill from four years ago that removed religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions.

"Education should not be tied to whether you're vaccinated or not," Drinkwater said.

A citizen's referendum was proposed to reverse the bill four years ago, but 73 percent of Mainers voted in favor of the new law.

"When the Maine Legislature passed LD 798 in 2019, which applies to eight specific diseases, not all vaccines. I felt tremendous hope and gratitude," Dr. Genevieve Whiting said in her testimony opposing LD 51.

Another bill proposed by Senator Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, would be more of a preventative measure to be sure Maine children are not mandated to take new vaccines.

"In the future, if we do have some sort of pandemic or something that comes up that any drug that's under emergency use authorization, we're not going to say our children have to take it," Keim said.

The majority of the testimony on these bills was in favor, but organizations like the Maine Principal's Association and the Maine Association of School Nurses submitted written testimony in opposition. 

All six vaccine bills are being presented to the education committee and will head to a work session in the coming weeks.

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