By Dave Gram
Parents in America’s least devout state may be forced to find religion if they want to exempt their kids from getting vaccinated.
Vermont earlier this year became the first state to remove a philosophical exemption allowing parents to skip the immunizations required to enroll in school but keep the religious exemption in place.
And while some states require evidence — a statement of religious beliefs, for instance — to support the claim that a child should be exempt for religious reasons, Vermont requires only checking a box on a form next to the word “religious.”
“The vast majority who used the philosophical exemption are planning to or are being forced to use the religious exemption,” said Jennifer Stella, president of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.
Vermont, which historically has had one of the country’s lowest rates of students fully compliant with the recommended vaccination schedule, is the first state to preserve the religious exemption while doing away with the philosophical one, according to research complied by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Vaccine Information Center. Earlier this summer, California joined West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states without any personal belief exemption.
Because Vermont is first down this particular path, there’s no answer to the question of whether states see a new-found interest in religion upon removing the philosophical exemption. But Shawn Venner and Aedan Scribner, who are raising their 8-month-old daughter, Zelda, in Cabot, said the issue may spark a revival.
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