Vermont vaccine bill to allow exemptions passes House

The Vermont House of Representatives voted on Thursday to continue to allow parents to use philosophical exemptions to opt their children out of vaccinations.

The report will have to pass the Senate again prior to becoming law. The law retains requirements such as an annual parental sign-off that acknowledges the risk to the community. The state will convene a working group on how to protect students who have health issues preventing them from receiving vaccinations, such as allowing them to enroll in districts with the highest immunization rates, VT Digger reports.

The vote to approve the conference report was 133-6 in favor of passage. The Senate earlier voted in favor of removing the philosophical exemption because of the state's below average vaccination rate. The House added more reporting requirements but kept the exemption. Members of the Senate and House have worked to create an agreement that reconciles the conflicting bills.

The first agreement would have suspended the exemption use if immunization rates dropped below 90 percent for certain vaccines. Such an agreement didn't sit will with many representatives and was cut after a Wednesday afternoon meeting.

"I believed we could claw and scrape our way to a majority vote," Rep. Mike Fisher said, according to VT Digger. "It just wasn't worth it. The core of the bill was acceptable, and I thought fairly minor changes would make it acceptable to a wider majority."

Vermont has allowed philosophical, religious and health exemptions for vaccination since 1979.