Maine lawmakers discuss making tweaks to vaccination exemption law

Published: Mar. 9, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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Just days after voters upheld Maine's new vaccination exemption law at the polls, state lawmakers are looking at making tweaks to the law that's set to go into effect next year.

Notably, a proposed bill would exempt students enrolled in online charter schools from having to get vaccinated.

"The idea is to pick these pieces and have a discussion in the legislature once tempers had cooled, making sure we're making policy decisions based in science and based on the best information in front of us -- not because of politics," said Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono.

Tipping sponsored the initial law that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccines.

He also sponsored the bill subject to a public hearing Monday that would exempt students enrolled in online charter schools from having to get vaccinated.

Cara Sacks is Campaign Manager for Yes on 1, the group that tried to repeal the vaccine exemption law.

"People were shocked that online schools would be included in a vaccine mandate because children don't come together when they're in online school settings," said Sacks. "And it highlights that this wasn't well thought through."

She says her organization supports the proposed bill, but the current language might prohibit non-vaccinated kids from attending online schools that might meet once a year for testing.

"We're not sure that this, unless it's fixed, that the amendment will actually address that problem, but we support exempting online schools from being required to comply," said Sacks.

The bill also aims to get post-secondary students into the Universal Vaccine Program to get free vaccines.

"I think one of the most frustrating things about this whole debate is that both sides are here for the same reason: to protect our kids, to protect our grandkids," said Tipping. "Bills like this that bring up specific items of policy on how to best do that is how we reach that goal."