Over 400 people signed up for a virtual hearing to discuss vaccine-related bills in Massachusetts. This hearing, led by Public Health Committee Co-Chair Rep. Marjorie Decker, covered legislation about the COVID-19 vaccine and other immunizations that took place before the virus outbreak, reports WHDH, a local station in Boston.

One bill that the hearing examined was H.2411, which would eliminate religious exemption as an option to avoid vaccinations in public schools. (The medical exemption would still be in place.) Other bills like H.2271 and S.1517 are meant to improve the exemption procedures and promote immunization on a wide scale.

Senator Becca Rausch, who presented S.1517, describes the current immunization laws for kids in Massachusetts to be “Swiss cheese at best.” Rausch says the “holes have led to significant confusion, widely disparate implementation and serious public health gaps that threaten the health and safety of communities all across the commonwealth.”

GBH News, another station in Boston, writes that, according to Rausch, it’s crucial that the state keeps track of the public’s immunization records, including children. Rausch claims that the lack of immunization tracking has led to diseases infiltrating the school system without producing herd immunity.

Many of the 400 people who signed up for the hearing were parents and concerned citizens protesting vaccine tracking. 

In the online hearing, parent Ashley McKinnon said she has previously used the religious exemption for her child as a means to avoid vaccination. “Not because it goes against my religion,” she said, “but because I do not believe that it is necessary to put additional chemicals into my child’s body for an illness that she would fully recover from. You are proposing to take away my right as a parent and for what? To protect other people?”

MassLive notes that religious exemptions only cover one percent of the student population. Still, some doctors claim that any exemption is a threat to herd immunity. Those doctors, along with school officials, contend that most religions do not prohibit vaccinations.

Not all doctors agree. Dr. Sylvia Fogel, a psychiatrist from Massachusetts General Hospital, says that eliminating the religious exemption for schools could be detrimental. She states, “These lower rates of vaccination pockets are simply not driven by the one percent of children using a religious exemption.”

The Boston Globe reports that the Community Immunity Act is another vaccine-related bill that could enforce immunization. If passed, this act would allow children to be vaccinated without parental consent. Their parents would have no way of knowing apart from the child’s written permission or a court order. 

What do you think about these bills? Should the government be allowed to decide whether your child should be vaccinated?

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