Maine may soon become one of six states in the nation that prohibit personal and religious reasons from being used to refuse vaccinations. The move is in response to the largest measles outbreak in the United States in a quarter of a century.
The state governments of Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and New York are all considering bills that would only allow for vaccination exemptions out of a medical necessity identified by a doctor.
There have been 704 documented cases of the measles so far this year. Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, says these cases, for the most part, were completely avoidable.
Azar says the spread of misinformation has played a large role in the current measles outbreak. One bit of information that has been completely debunked is that vaccines are a potential cause for autism. Azar says this has caused some communities to receive vaccinations at a rate that is lower than normal.
According to gulf-times.com, measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. This meant at the time the disease no longer had a constant presence in the country. The current outbreak began when travelers to other countries contracted the disease.
The state House of Representatives in Maine approved the bill a month ago. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in the coming days.
Republicans who stand against the bill say it is an unnecessary intrusion into the personal rights of citizens to follow their religious beliefs.
Ryan Tipping, the Democratic Representative in Maine who authored the bill, counters this stance by saying no religion in the country forbids its followers from receiving vaccines.
Tippin says he worked alongside men and women of faith while developing the bill. He explains none of them thought a religious objection existed for making a dangerous disease less prevalent in American society.
Democratic Governor Janet Mills has not yet made it clear whether she will choose to approve the bill if it makes it past the Senate.
Some states are opting for less restrictive ways to encourage people to vaccinate. Washington is considering removing exemptions for measles vaccinations for personal reasons but would leave intact religious exemptions.
Five percent of kindergarteners in Maine have not been vaccinated for measles. This is significantly higher than the two percent national average.
The World Health Organization explains that a 95 percent immunization rate is necessary to achieve the level of protection that is needed.