An attempt to expand parental vaccine exemptions for kids was soundly defeated in Maine on Tuesday, with 74% rejecting the ballot initiative. From the Portland Press-Herald (story here):
The “no” vote was widespread throughout Maine, winning big in the cities, small towns and rural areas. In South Portland, 86 percent voted “no,” while 73 percent voted against the referendum in Bangor and 75 percent were opposed in Lewiston.
The vote assures that Maine will be one of the five states that forbid all non-medical exemptions to school-required vaccines, joining California, New York, Mississippi and West Virginia. California and New York passed laws after measles outbreaks in recent years caused by waning vaccination rates. Maine has the highest pertussis rate in the country.
I am, of course, delighted to see a large number of voters taking a look at an issue and making a rational and intelligent decision. That doesn’t happen often enough.
But there’s a caveat, as I learned from the Bangor Daily News analysis: This issue is split among party lines in Maine, and Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans voting in a party primary on Tuesday. If this referendum had come up in a general election in November, results might have been different.
New Hampshire is pretty good about vaccine exemptions, requiring a doctor’s note or a note from some religious authority and not allowing the vague “parent-read-something-on-internet-and-is-worried” exemption. We also pay for all vaccines for children under 18.
Exemptions rates are about 2 1/2 percent overall, although for private schools it’s much higher: 11% for kindergarten and almost 5% for 7th-graders. I bet it’s even higher for the home-school community. (School vaccination data from the state for 2018-2019 is here)
In general, an unvaccinated rate of 5% or less is considered necessary for “herd immunity”.