Maine's new law bans people from opting out of immunization for religious reasons after rise in measles cases
Maine has passed a law prohibiting people from opting out of immunization because of their religious or philosophical beliefs. As reported by CNN, Maine has now become the fourth state in the country to pass such a law. This measure has come in the wake of the rise in the number of measles cases across the country.
The Governor of Maine, Janet Mills, signed the bill into law on Friday which will prevent anyone from opting out unless medically required. This means that unless a doctor advises non-immunization based on medical grounds no one would be able to opt out. The law will not immediately go into effect but it would be enforceable after September 2021. The children who have not been immunized because their parents opted out for non-medical reasons, before September 2021, would be required to have written documents from health professionals stating that they have been made aware of the risks in case of non-immunization.
According to the CDC, there has been a considerable rise in measles cases since January. Measles, which had been eradicated in the US in 2000 has returned with as many as 940 confirmed cases reported across 26 states despite the fact that measles immunization could be as high as 97% effective. California, West Virginia, and Mississippi are the other three states which already have such laws in place barring people from non-immunization for non-medical reasons.
In a statement to CNN, Maine Governor Janet Mills said that "As governor, it is my responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Maine people, and it has become clear that our current laws do not adequately protect against the risks posed to Mainers." She further stated that "People of good will hold sincere beliefs on both sides of the issue, but Maine has a vaccination opt-out rate that is three times higher than the national average for students entering Kindergarten and the state ranks seventh in the country for the rate of non-medical exemptions taken among school-age children."
The rise in cases of non-immunization has also been attributed to a rise in misinformation, especially with the emergence of groups like anti-vaxxers. These groups believe that immunization leads to autism and other diseases despite numerous studies stating otherwise. Apart from such laws, companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon are also acting against such misinformation by disincentivizing or demonetizing accounts which seek to promote unscientific theories about vaccinations.
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