Public health, pediatricians, activists oppose changes to childcare vaccination rules

EMILY SCHABACKER

In an effort to streamline hiring and comply with laws passed in 2021, state officials have proposed amendments to child care rules that would allow for religious exemptions to routine immunizations for children and staff.

The public had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services during a Thursday morning zoom meeting. A public comment period is required under Montana law before amendments are made to rules, though no additional voting by lawmakers will take place.

Under the proposed amendments, parents, guardians and staff would have the option to submit a notarized affidavit stating that vaccination for diseases such as whooping cough, measles, polio or diphtheria is contrary to their religious beliefs or practices.

Presently, religious exemptions for vaccinations are not accepted in child care facilities because of the danger posed to infants too young to be vaccinated and young children who are at higher risk for severe illness.

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Medical exemptions for immunizations are permitted, but it is rare for a child or staff member to need one, said Kelly Rosenleaf, executive director of Child Care Resources.

DPHHS

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