On Tuesday, hundreds of Anti-Vaccination advocates wore red at the Capitol. Their mission was to encourage lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow for a narrow scope of religious exemptions for required vaccinations.
However, in the last meeting of the Senate Education Committee before the end of deadline day, SB 2562 was held on a motion to table, ultimately killing it. Then at the end of the day the House Education Committee did not bring up HB 1060, ultimately leaving the bill to die before the deadline.
The Senate bill was authored by Sen. Jenifer Branning (R) and would have authorized exemptions from immunization requirements for schools and child care facilities when a parent or guardian objects on the grounds of a religious belief. For a child to be exempt from immunization on religious grounds, the parent or guardian would have been required to furnish the school officials an affidavit in which they affirm that the immunization required conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Up until the 1970’s, Mississippi did have a religious exemption for vaccinations. It was struck down by a Mississippi Supreme Court decision. According to the National Conference of State Legislators there are 45 states and Washington D.C. that grant religious exemptions. Only 15 states allow philosophical exemptions because of personal, moral, or other beliefs.
Mississippi leads the nation as the top child vaccinating state. The vaccination rate currently sits at 99.6 percent of children vaccinated.
Senators spoke for and against the bill until a motion was offered by Senator David Blount (D) to lay the bill on the table, which would ultimately kill it after the deadline tonight.
“That bill is strongly opposed by the Department of Health, the State Health Officer, the Mississippi Medical Association, the Association of Pediatricians, and the Mississippi Family Medicine Association. We have a strong law, one of the best laws in the country. A law that other states have modeled their policies after,” said Blount. “We need to protect the strong law and protect the children of Mississippi now more than ever.”
Sen. @SenDavidBlount motions to lay the bill aside. He says “This is not time to go soft on infectious disease.” He said the state Health Officer as well as many others are extremely opposed to this. He believes they need to listen to medical professionals on this topic #msleg
— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) March 3, 2020
Senator Angela Hill (R) disagreed with Blount and said those with a strongly held religious belief should be entitled to make the final decision. The motion carried and the bill was tabled by a voice vote.
Anti-Vaxers brought in several speakers including journalist and creator of the documentary “Vaxed,” Del Bigtree to discuss their platform as to why these exemptions should be made.
“You still believe in God here. You still understand what it means to be part of this earth, taking care of the Earth,” Bigtree said. “To be one of the states that does not allow you to have a religious exemption is absolutely insane and goes against everything that I think you’re supposed to believe in here in Mississippi.”
Bigtree said according to the World Health Organization, doctors only receive as much as a half a day explanation on vaccinations. He said more research is done by parents on which carseat to use and what strollers work better than the doctors partake in before vaccinating a child. (Disclaimer, the actual amount of time doctors are briefed on vaccinations could not be determined directly from the organization)
“And what has that resulted in. In the 1980’s when we got 11 vaccines the chronic illness rate of our children was 12.8 percent, either and autoimmune or neurological disorder. We are now giving 54 vaccines, the chronic illness rate has now skyrocketed to 54 percent,” said Bigtree.
Bigtree argued, that in his opinion, vaccinations can make children sicker. He said he is more concerned with the possibility of a child developing a chronic illness than having a rash for a few days because of the measles.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson also spoke in favor of religious exemptions for vaccinations. He shared his own personal story in which he had an allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine.
Gipson said just before beginning kindergarten he had a reaction to the vaccination and after that was dismissed by medical professionals from having any further vaccinations.
“I went from kindergarten to the twelfth grade with no vaccines beyond that,” said Gipson. “I lived, I survived. Somehow I didn’t kill anybody and I wasn’t hurt.”
Gipson said he and his wife look at vaccinations from the religious perspective and believe that they live in a country where the founding fathers believed in the right to exercise faith as a primary principal.
There is always the small chance that lawmakers could revive the bill during conference before Sine Die, but based on the overwhelming opposition, it seems unlikely that it will happen.