highest rate of vaccine exemptions in the nation
Maine is one of 17 states in which families of school-aged children may request an exemption from school-required immunizations based on religious and philosophical beliefs.
of maine kindergartners are not vaccinated
Only 0.3% of Maine kindergarten parents requested medical exemptions in the 2017-2018 school year. Non-medical exemptions were requested nearly 17 times more.
deadly diseases that threaten our health
High community immunity is created in schools and public spaces when children are immunized at high enough levels to prevent the spread of diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
Low vaccination rates put children and other vulnerable people, including individuals who are immunosuppressed due to transplants or chemotherapy, at risk for contracting deadly diseases. These illnesses, which include measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, are entirely preventable. When even a few parents refuse to vaccinate their children because they’ve bought into rumors, myths, and bad science, they put us all at risk.
Outbreaks in Maine
13 schools in Cumberland, Hancock, Waldo, Penobscot, and York counties had outbreaks of pertussis, or whooping cough. This included Sanford and Cumberland schools, among others, and three daycare centers in York County.
A daycare in Westbrook had an outbreak that affected several children, including a five-month old baby. Infants too young to vaccinate were not allowed to attend daycare for over a month. A case was also reported in a Waterboro middle school.
Outbreaks occurred among college students in 2016 at the University of Southern Maine, Bates College, and Bowdoin College. Other than one reported case in 2013, Maine had not experienced an outbreak of mumps since 2007.
Outbreaks are spreading like wildfire in Oregon and Washington state, which both allow parents to opt out of vaccinating for philosophical reasons. Measles can be deadly and is seriously contagious: an unvaccinated person has a 90% chance of catching measles just by being near someone who has it. In 2017, Maine had its first case of reported measles in two decades.
LD 798: The Law
LD 798: An Act to Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements was signed into law in 2019. It makes schools safer for our most vulnerable kids by ending non-medical exemptions to school-required vaccines. The law retains currently defined medical exemptions but removes "philosophical reasons" and "religious belief" from the exemption language from both Maine State Statute and DHHS/DOE Joint Rule.
The constitutionality of immunization as a condition of school entry has been supported in numerous cases. Specifically, it does not infringe on rights to education—in fact, in reinforces the right to education by protecting schoolchildren from disease, a precondition of the education to which they are entitled.
The removal of philosophical belief and religious exemptions for school-required immunizations:
Ensures a safe learning environment for all children, including those who cannot receive immunizations and those who are at risk for severe side effects to vaccine-preventable disease.
Results in fewer missed school days from preventable outbreaks.
Allows school administrators, school boards, and nurses to adequately protect students from preventable disease.
We used a data visualization tool created by FRED: A Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics, an agent-based modeling system developed by the Pitt Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. It shows how vaccine-preventable diseases could spread in Maine's Cumberland County if vaccine rates keep dropping without common sense laws requiring immunization as a condition for school entry.