Bad News for Pa. Anti-Vaxxers: Bill Would Eliminate “Philosophical” Exemptions

Legislators want to toughen the state's immunization requirements.

Pennsylvania legislators are considering a bill to toughen the state’s immunization requirements by removing one of the pathways to opting out.

There are three such pathways now: A medical exemption, a religious exemption, and a philosophical exemption. HB 883 — introduced this week by Rep. Becky Corbin, a Chester County Republican — would eliminate the philosophical exemption, and raise the paperwork barriers to gaining a religious exemption, requiring affidavits signed by a healthcare provider. 

“A religious belief shall not include a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief,” the bill states — language that eliminates secular objections to immunization.

Pew in February reported that Pennsylvania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the country. Coming as it did during the middle of a measles outbreak, the news prompted state legislators to consider tougher requirements. A Senate committee has already approved a resolution to study and make recommendations on how to increase the vaccination rate here, though the resolution has since been referred to another committee for consideration.

In a memorandum, Corbin said that philosophical objections comprise most exemptions to immunization in Pennsylvania.

“Our legislation simply removes the philosophical immunization exemption to better protect our citizens and communities from debilitating and deadly diseases that can be prevented through the administration of a vaccine,” she wrote.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health for full consideration.

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