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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

VERMONT: Vermont Debates Letting Parents Say No to Vaccines


Associated Press (04.22.12) - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vermont lawmakers are deliberating whether to terminate the "philosophical exemption" that allows parents to enroll children in school or child care without being immunized.

The state Health Department and CDC call for about 20 shots before a child begins kindergarten. Both agencies also note Vermont has one of the highest state exemption rates for childhood vaccinations.

A March state Senate vote (26-4) eliminated the philosophical exemption, but a subsequent April House vote (93-36) retained it. Left unresolved, the legislation will die, leaving Vermont one of 20 states allowing philosophical exemptions from required immunizations.

All states allow medical exemptions, and nearly all offer religious exemptions from immunization. An Associated Press analysis of state health department data for 2010-11 found that Alaska exempted 9 percent of kindergarteners; Colorado exempted 7 percent; and Vermont and Washington each exempted 6 percent.

State Health Department Immunization Manager Christine Finley said Vermont's percentage of fully immunized kindergarteners fell from 93 percent in 2005 to 83 percent in 2010. While exemption proponents decry a perceived profit-driven pharmaceutical industry, exemption critics assert the decline in state immunizations must be halted to preserve "herd immunity." Some theorize that Vermont's recent outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough), a vaccine target, is related to exemption. "Do you want to wait until you've got a measles outbreak?" asked Finley, who added that Vermont had 102 whooping cough cases between January and the beginning of April, more than in all of 2011. Washington had 640 cases from January through March; 94 cases were reported for the same time in 2011.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has endorsed the House's call for more education on immunization over the Senate's move to drop the philosophical exemption.


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Information in this article was accurate in April 26, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.