Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

April 28, 2021

Senator Anwar Votes to Protect Vulnerable Residents, Protect Public Health by Passing Legislation to Remove Non-Medical Vaccination Exemptions

Today, following hours of debate and discussion, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) joined his colleagues to protect vulnerable residents and protect public health by voting in support of legislation that will eliminate non-medical exemptions for vaccines, protecting the safety of thousands of Connecticut residents and protecting residents who are medically unable to be vaccinated against dangerous diseases.

“As a physician, I know firsthand the impact that infectious diseases can have on both an individual’s health and a community’s health. Vaccines serve as a safety net. They don’t protect only those who choose to take them; they benefit all of our society, especially those who cannot receive protection themselves if they are medically compromised,” said Sen. Anwar. “We have seen in recent years, both statewide and nationally, the consequences of reduced vaccination rates; they lead to outbreaks of diseases we have previously controlled. I’m proud to support this legislation in the name of science and in the name of public health.”

Passed by the House in a bipartisan manner, House Bill 6423, “An Act Concerning Immunizations,” will end the non-medical exemption for vaccinations in Connecticut. Medical exemptions will continue to be allowed for immunocompromised residents. Use and adoption of a non-medical exemption, often declared on religious grounds, has grown in recent years, though all major religions have given support to vaccinations, stating the societal benefits of their use outweigh potential drawbacks.

Increasing use of the non-medical exemption has led to preventable outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases, including measles, which is covered in the required MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for young children. In 2019, the United States experienced its greatest number of measles cases since 1992, with most cases considered likely to spread and cause outbreaks among unvaccinated populations.

In Connecticut, the number of children claiming non-medical exemptions has risen annually since 2017-18, with the 2019-20 school year seeing that number rise of 8,328. States including New York and California have eliminated these exemptions to protect those who cannot take regular vaccinations.

Medical professionals statewide have applauded the legislation. Doctors from Yale and Columbia Universities endorsed removing non-medical exemptions, noting they are often tied to increases in unvaccinated residents in communities. The Central Connecticut Health District’s medical representatives noted vaccinations are aimed to protect communities.

The legislation, as currently written, eliminates the non-medical exemption for individuals attending public and private schools including higher education, child care centers and family and group day care homes. The medical exemption to vaccinations remains standard. An amendment made to the legislation will “grandfather in” individuals enrolled in grades K-12 or higher who received exemptions prior to the bill’s passage. Children enrolled in prekindergarten or day care programs with prior religious exemptions generally must comply with immunization requirements by September 1, 2022 or two weeks after transferring to a different program, though the timeframe can be extended if a child’s provider writes a declaration recommending an alternative immunization schedule.

The bill also requires the Department of Public Health to create a medical exemption certificate to be used by October 1; requires the DPH to release annual immunization rates for each public and private K-12 school in the state; establishes an advisory committee on Medically Contraindicated Vaccinations to advise on issues concerning medical exemptions from immunization requirements; and requires DPH to evaluate data on immunization exemptions.