Conn. Lawmakers Consider Eliminating Religious Exemption For Vaccines

Mar 14, 2019

House Majority leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, speaks during opening session at the state Capitol in Hartford in 2017.
Credit Jessica Hill / AP

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter wants Connecticut lawmakers to vote to end the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations this year. It’s in response to the recent outbreak of measles in 12 states and in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and Queens.

Ritter, a Hartford Democrat, says 800 kindergarteners start school each year in Connecticut without being vaccinated.

“We have to vote affirmatively on this. Because heaven forbid, a child in one of these towns with a compromised immune system comes down with measles and dies. I don’t want that on my conscience. So at the end of the day I’m not here to tell people how they’ve got to vote. Everybody should vote the way they want.”

Republican Representative Vincent Candelora of North Haven supports keeping the religious exemption and says it’s premature to have a vote.

“Regardless of how you feel on whether there should be a religious exemption, there should be a public hearing first.”

In 2015 lawmakers tightened Connecticut’s exemption law to require parents to declare annually if they refuse to vaccinate their children on religious grounds. It followed the initial measles outbreak in California.