Vermont legislator introduces bill to eliminate pertussis vaccine exemptions

Vermont State Representative George Till (D-Jericho) recently introduced a new bill that would eliminate philosophical and religious exemptions for the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine.

Till, who was at the center of a similar debate over the issue last year, said that the legislation is needed because the state is facing a major pertussis outbreak. In 2011, there were 100 cases of the childhood illness reported. In 2012, the number jumped to 645, according to Vermont Public Radio.

"I think that we've had a lot more cases of pertussis since last year," Till said, Vermont Public Radio reports. "I truly think we had a chance to be pro active last year the numbers this fall were very high. The people asking well where's the problem the answer should be obvious."

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said that the state has no plans to support the legislation. Health Commissioner Harry Chen said that his department is capable of making solid progress against the illness without engaging the state in a legislative battle.

"Two things that I think are important to this discussion is that pertussis cases the numbers seem to be going down so we've already reached the peak, knock on wood," Chen said, Vermont Public Radio reports. "And then finally the majority of cases of kids that develop pertussis were already vaccinated.

"I think really it's almost a resource decision about where you want to put your efforts and I think we can make more progress getting kids vaccinated in schools and in doctor's offices than we can trying to battle it out in the Legislature with likely the same result as last year."