The Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will consider a bill Wednesday that would outlaw all non-medical exemptions for vaccines that are required to attend school. Currently, Maine parents can forgo immunizations for their schoolchildren by signing a form objecting on religious or philosophic grounds.

Maine’s opt-out rates are climbing and typically among the worst in the nation.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week showing that the voluntary opt-out rate for students entering kindergarten had increased from 5 percent in the 2017-18 school year to 5.6 percent in 2018-19, the highest rate ever recorded. Maine has had extremely high rates of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, over the past few years, with 446 cases in 2018 and 136 through March 2019.

The 2018 per-capita pertussis rate in Maine was eight times the national average.

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