Voters in the state of Maine will not only be casting votes in a presidential primary today, they also will decide whether to overturn a new law that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccines, according to NPR.
The Maine legislature passed the bill last year, and it is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, 2021, unless opponents win their repeal effort today.
According to NPR, more than 5 percent of kindergartners in Maine have medical non-exemptions, a rate that is more than double the national average. Meanwhile, the state has the nation's second-highest rate of pertussis, and physicians there are concerned about measles.
The law is supported largely by physicians, health organizations, parents of children with compromised immune systems, while the repeal effort is supported by parents whose children have had adverse reactions to vaccines and others who view the law as an infringement on their freedom. One parent, whose daughter had a severe adverse reaction to a chicken pox vaccine that resulted in ataxia but who eventually recovered, spoke in favor of the repeal. "I am not sacrificing my child for the greater good of the community," she said.
The campaign in favor of keeping the law has received donations from big pharma firms including Pfizer and Merck, as well as the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which, unsurprisingly, has led the repeal campaign to adopt the slogan "Reject Big Pharma."