Of all the things there ought to be religious exemptions for, vaccines make no sense at all. By possibly carrying and spreading a virus, for whatever the reason, other people stand to suffer as a result of the anti-vaxxer’s negligence. Religious freedom cannot work when someone’s faith can literally harm other people.
That’s why Connecticut is rightly trying to eliminate its religious exemptions to vaccinations for students. As it stands, 7,600 schoolchildren have those exemptions. It’s enough people that herd immunity is seriously threatened in some of their schools.
HB-6423, which passed in the State House on a 90-53 vote on Monday, would eliminate religious exemptions to vaccines beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. The bill now heads to the Democratically controlled State Senate.
Unfortunately, Republicans were able to pass an amendment before that House vote to “grandfather” in students who currently have a religious exemption. In other words, the students who aren’t vaccinated can continue putting everyone at risk; the government isn’t about to kick them out of school once the law goes into effect. But at least new students won’t be able to get away with it.
It almost seems self-defeating to permit that amendment, though if the bill passes, it’s only a matter of years before everyone in the public school system is either vaccinated or has a legitimate medical excuse for avoiding their shots.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont reiterated Tuesday that he’s prepared to signed the legislation into law, if it passes in the Senate.
“We saw there was a very strong vote in the legislature, which I consider (to be) in support of vaccinations and doing everything we can to encourage, in this case students, to get vaccinated, with obviously the necessary medical exemption,” Lamont said. “And I think it sends a strong signal, which I appreciate. Get vaccinated.”
There’s no reason to allow religious zealots, vaccine skeptics, or conspiracy theorists to put everyone’s health in jeopardy because of their own beliefs or negligence. It’s one thing to destroy your own future. No one has the right to destroy everyone else’s. No one’s forcing them to be vaccinated, but the government has a responsibility to make sure the foolish decisions of a faith-based minority don’t block the education of the majority.
You would think being the middle of a pandemic would make this abundantly clear, but one party remains beholden to the Religious Right. Thank goodness there are enough voices of reason in Connecticut’s legislature that it appears this bill will be passed soon enough.
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