By: Amelia Bodge, Staff Writer
In March at the polls voters will have to ability to vote either “Yes” or “No” on the following question:
Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?
A “Yes” vote would repeal the law. A “No” vote would uphold the law.
The question will be on ballots statewide under Question 1 and is targeting a bill signed by Governor Janet Mills in May of last year.
LD798 (ch. 154) was signed into law in May 2019 and removed religious or philosophical exemptions to vaccines in schools and healthcare facilities. The law still allows for medical exemptions with a written statement by a licensed physician.
For the past few weeks campaign signs regarding Question 1 have been sprouting up across the state, stating “Yes on 1: Reject Big Pharma.”
According to the website for the Yes on Question 1 campaign, a “Yes” vote is a vote to:
- Reject Big Pharma and government overreach
- Restore equal access to education for all Mainers
- Defend parental rights
- Protect religious freedom
- Preserve informed consent & medical freedom
The campaign also states that they believe the vaccine schedule is increasing citing “69 vaccine doses by age 18.”
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine state-mandated vaccines for grades K-12 are DTaP, MMR, Polio, Poliomyelitis, Meningitis, and Varicella.
In the 2018-2019 Maine School Immunization Assessment Report, it was stated that Maine fell below the vaccination rate recommended by the CDC in 5 out of 6 of those state-mandated vaccines. The CDC states the vaccine rates should be at least at 95% to maintain herd immunity.
When the bill was being considered to be signed into law numerous healthcare professionals submitted independent testimony; including the Director of Health Services here at USM, Lisa Belanger.
Belanger’s independent testimony for the original article explains the proposed bill.
In her testimony, Belanger said that many college students opted out of vaccines for convenience, not religious or philosophical reasons.
Belanger stated that vaccines help tell the body to target certain viruses or bacteria to protect an individual from infection. She also said that vaccines are not perfect, so someone who is unvaccinated may become infected which might cause the virus to mutate, rendering a vaccinated person susceptible to this new virus.
She recommended people talk to a healthcare professional before making the decision whether to vaccinate or not. Becoming educated on the subject and having an open dialogue can help address concerns regarding vaccinations.
The election will take place on March 3, 2020.
This ballot question is unrelated to the Presidential Primary. It is a unique referendum question that will be asked statewide. Contrary to the primary, voters are not required to be registered with a specific party to vote in this referendum election.