Public Health Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6949

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDHOOD VACCINATIONS.

Vote Date:

3/27/2015

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/18/2015

File No.:

627

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Public Health Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Current law exempts children from school immunization requirements if the child presents a statement from his or her parents or guardians that the immunization would be contrary to the child's religious beliefs. This bill requires that the statement be notarized.  The bill also extends the requirement to children attending child day care centers and group day care homes whose parents or guardians object to such immunization on religious grounds.

 

Existing law requires children attending both day care facilities and public and private schools to be immunized against certain diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; and polio, among others. In addition to the above religious exemption, the law provides a medical exemption for children that document such immunization is medically contraindicated. 

Substitute Language:

Section 1: (1) Removes the requirement for parents or guardians to review and understand evidence based instructional materials provided by the Department of Public Health (DPH) regarding risks to children who fail to receive adequate immunizations, (2) eliminates subsection (b) that defined adequate immunization, and (3) eliminates subsection (c) that would have allowed the Commissioner of Public Health to issue a temporary waiver to the schedule for active immunization.

Section 2: (1) Technical change to allow guardians to object to an immunization, (2) includes the requirement that objections be accompanied by a notarized statement, and (3) removes the requirement for parents or guardians to acknowledge a review and understanding of evidence based instructional materials provided by DPH regarding risks to children who fail to receive adequate immunizations in their notarized statement.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Mary Kate Lowndes, Director of Development and Special Initiatives, Connecticut Commission on Children: The commission supports the added language requiring a parent or guardian to submit a notarized statement that the immunizations would contradict the religious beliefs of the child and the parent or guardian has reviewed and understands evidence-based instructional material provided by the Department of Public Health regarding risks to the child and to other children failing to receive adequate immunizations. In addition, the commission suggests the information be available in the first language of the parent or guardian.

Dr. Jewel Mullen, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH): DPH supports the intent of strengthening statutory language concerning religious exemptions to immunization requirements. Currently a request for exemption is provided directly to the school or child care facility to be maintained as part of the student's health assessment record. DPH recommends that notarization requirement waiver requests be made to the entity that is maintaining the documentation.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Dr. Leonard Banco, Board of Directors, Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Routine childhood immunization is one of the crown achievements in public health over the past century. The AAP has long supported preventive care and advocates for school entry immunization policies that ensure full immunization in the school setting. The AAP believes that the only exemption to immunization for a child attending school should be medical necessity.

Sandra Carbonari, President, Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Shared testimony of her experience treating patients before and after the introduction of the Hemophilus influenza type B vaccine. Requiring adequate immunization of children in the school system has been proven to be an incredibly effective intervention preventing many diseases. The AAP believes that the only exemption to immunization for a child attending school should be medical necessity.

Connecticut Association of Directors of Health: Vaccine preventable illnesses including measles, mumps, and whooping cough are a threat to public health and continue to infect children. This has resulted in hospitalizations, permanent disability such as paralysis of limbs, hearing loss, brain damage and death.

Dr. Stephen Updegrove, Chair, Connecticut Vaccine Advisory Council: Connecticut should recognize only medical exemptions to the immunization mandates for school and daycare. As a compromise, the council believes that if a religious exemption was to be preserved, it must be strengthened so as to require that those who seek to invoke the exemption are practicing members of an organized faith that actually believes in proscribing immunizations. In addition, merely having a family be required to review materials about the importance of immunizations is not effective.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Laura Fisher Anderson: She is a military wife and mother of four children. This bill is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution and violates the right to freely exercise religious beliefs.

Leila Baroody: She is opposed to mandates of this sort, especially when some vaccines have unlabeled chemical and GMO ingredients. Children have developing immune systems which need to be protected by parents from novel processes and chemical additives which may have been expedited by chemical and GMO interests for profit.

Shannon Brazee: Requiring individuals to review educational materials or agreeing to affirmations about risks of not vaccinating in order for the individual to exercise their religious exemption to vaccination is unconstitutional.

Stephanie Brockett: This bill violates first Amendment religious rights and would force people to defend their beliefs and puts an added expense to all involved, while achieving nothing.

Maria Buchta: There are often significant and devastating side effects for each and every vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control, not one person has died from the measles in ten years; however, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database, there have been 108 deaths from the vaccine.

Laurie Charleton: This bill contradicts with the first amendment right to free exercise of religious belief. Most children attend school; therefore, most children would be forced to get vaccinated if their parents do not want to be forced to sign a statement that they are putting their child and others at risk.

Lisa Cummings, Health Coach, American Association of Drugless Practitioners: Connecticut should not create substantive requirements for a parent or guardian to exercise their religious belief when taking exemption to vaccination. Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates of any state and parental informed consent is the standard in developed countries around the world.

Alyssa Davi: The state forcing vaccinations upon every family and child in Connecticut is morally wrong and unconstitutional, especially as the vaccine schedule continues to be altered at will and more vaccines are added regularly. The way to make children healthier is not to enforce vaccinations and make religious exemptions harder to obtain.

Dr. Elissa Diamond-Fields, Prenatal & Pediatric Holistic Health Center of Stamford: The media has failed to mention that since there have been small outbreaks of measles every year since its eradication in 2000. Vaccines are a medical intervention which carries known risk of injury and even death.

Kristen Festa: This bill will trample on constitutional religious freedom. Nurses are strong supporters of patient autonomy and the right to refuse care based upon one's religious belief.

Magda Florczyk: Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates of any state and no one has attempted to make a case that religious exemption are resulting in increased levels of disease. This bill is an added expense that violates First Amendment religious rights, doctors cannot change an individual's religious belief, and parental informed consent is the standard in developed democracies around the world.

Magdalena Gorzkowicz: She is a mother of two preschool age children. Forcing a citizen to notarize a document that states they are putting their child and others at risk due to their religious beliefs, constitutes religious persecution.

Winifred Harrison: Her eldest child suffered a serious vaccine reaction when he was fifteen months old. Requiring a parent to take vaccine education would not change their religious belief and would be a waste of time and money. In addition, a notarized statement is an incriminating statement for a parent to say they are knowingly putting their child and others at risk.

Aaron Hoffman: In a democratic nation where freedom is valued as a main tenet of society, it is unconscionable that a state would attempt to curb the rights of its citizens to freely practice their religious faith without question.

Audrey Hussey: First Amendment freedoms were not given to individuals by the government or founding fathers, but by the creator. She does not believe that she needs permission or doctrinal validation to hold to her beliefs.

Anna Kaltz: This bill violates parents and guardians' First Amendment rights to free exercise of their religious beliefs. There is no correlation between signing and notarizing a document acknowledging their understanding of the perceived risk information and religious belief.

Jill Kleiber: She is an acupuncturist that has studied vaccinations. Connecticut residents do not have to defend their religious beliefs, the practice of religion predates the implementation of vaccination by millenniums.

Kathryn Kyle: She opposes laws that devalue and undermine civil liberties. This bill would unfairly hinder people who are disadvantaged economically from being able to opt out for religious purposes. A notarized statement is a burden and hardship to individuals. In addition, this bill can possibly be used against parents in unintended ways during legal proceedings and will violate HIPPA laws currently in place.

Beth Lambert: This bill is a violation of First Amendment rights to free expression of religion and is unclear as to why anyone should be required to read informational material to freely practice his or her religious rights. Additionally, this bill would require enforcement, and the additional time and resources, and is not a wise use of tax dollars.

Isabelle Menozzi: This bill makes the assumption that the state, not the parent, has legal responsibility for making medical risk decisions for minor children. This bill is unconstitutional.

Marija Mikolajczak: There is a lot of fear and misinformation about measles. Measles is a common childhood illness for most of human history and may have a role in preventing cancer.

Dr. Laura Nunno: This bill would affect a majority of families she treats in a negative way.

Cynthia Overgard: This bill violates a parent and guardians' First Amendment rights to freely exercise their religious belief and violates our constitutional right to voluntary informed consent.

Ruth Pass, Standard Process New England: There is no legal precedence for having a citizen provide a notarized confirmation of an individual's religious belief. Connecticut has exceeded the Center for Disease Control's target rates for vaccination.

Vidhya Ponnurangam: Shared testimony concerning her daughter's severe autism. Her daughter is unable to talk and understand what people speak to her. She strongly refuses to further vaccinate her child when her daughter's medical needs are not met.

Sheila Ring Reed: Signing notarized forms that state an understanding of medical information has nothing to do with religious freedom. This bill asks people to make a secular argument for a religious exemption.

Julianne Skoczylas: This bill violates a parent or guardians' First amendment right to free exercise of their religious beliefs. This bill restricts freedom of choice.

H. Shiyrah Suplita: She is not against vaccinations; however, this bill will begin to infringe on parental rights to make decisions for their children's healthcare and wellbeing. Connecticut is well vaccinated.

Storm Tentler: This bill will trample and shred Connecticut's fundamental rights protected under the United State and Connecticut Constitutions and will unethically force medical procedures upon those who object because of their religious beliefs.

Gabriella True: This bill violates First Amendment rights to free exercise of religious beliefs and requires people to accept a secular argument for a religious exemption. Parents may not believe the education materials provided to them is true. There are over sixty vaccinations from birth to eighteen and Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

The following 15 people shared testimony expressing belief that this bill would violate an individual's Constitutional rights and added that Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates of any state: Catherine Ambrose, Elizabeth Bailey, Christine Corda, Susan Fiveson, Magda Florczyk, Dr. Mark Joachim, Sarah Kamrath, Marta Lokaj, Beverly Makar, Jennifer Masi, Alexandra McLaughlin, Rhienna Murray, Stephen Serkosky, Dr. Risa Sloves, Raquel Zapf

The following 4 people shared testimony expressing belief that this bill would violate an individual's civil liberties and that the notarized statement may have unintended incriminating implications during legal proceedings: Shannon Brazee, Jessica Fazio, Kathryn Kyle, Alexander H. Slohm

The following 42 people shared testimony expressing belief that this bill will violate First Amendment rights to religious freedom: Muneeza Ahmed, Sue Amis, Anissa Andrews, Ashley Beauregard, Amie Bentley, Aaron Bornstein, Mary Bornstein, Sheila Chaglasian, Jeanette Dias, Ruth Eddy, Janice Ferraro, Ariana Rawls Fine, Kate Gorman, Winifred Harrison, Stephanie Herrick, Marnie Hinze, Jamie Hoffman, Maria Rickert Hong, Jessica Huff, Olivia Hussey, Phil Hussey, Ellen Mary Jahne, Kellie Kousidis, Victoria Lawlor, Kadiatu M. Lublin, Nancy McFerran, Carol Ann Maranda, Michelle Moor, Harry D. Reed Jr., Sheila Ring Reed, Lisa Rothstein, Sara Sabbagh, Benjamin R. Slohm, William I. Slohm, Guy Smith, Heather L. Strauch, Melissa Sullivan, Melissa Talarico, Storm Tentler, Vivian Vera, Jennifer Wisner, Katherine Zigmond

Reported by: Ussawin Robin Bumpen

Date: 4/17/15