Maine primary voters on Tuesday voted to uphold a state law that eliminated philosophical and religious exemptions for mandated childhood vaccines.
“Tonight the health and wellbeing of Maine children prevailed,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“This law leaves medical exemptions up to medical professionals and ensures that Maine children are better protected from the spread of dangerous communicable diseases,” Mills said.
Initial passage of the law came amid a resurgence of measles across the nation last year. The disease had previously been declared eliminated in the US in 2000.
The ballot referendum was spearheaded by Mainers for Health and Parental Rights, who submitted more than 92,000 signatures in September 2019 to put a repeal question on the Super Tuesday ballot, citing the need to repeal one of “the most severe vaccine mandate law in the nation.”
Cara Sacks, co-chair of Mainers for Health and Parental Rights said at a press conference in 2019 announcing the ballot referendum effort that repealing the law is about telling “BIg Pharma Maine is not for sale.”
“This law is not about vaccines. We believe that Maine parents make the best decisions for their children and that our government has no business mandating medical interventions and or coming between anyone and their doctor. We believe in the right to choose into what is injected into our bodies and the bodies of our children,” Sacks said at the time.
Republican state Rep. Justin Fecteau said at a press conference in February that the law was a “constitutional attack on minorities who don’t consent” to the law.
“In Maine we don’t have a vaccination issue. We have an issue with the government telling us what to do with our bodies,” Fecteau said.
The Maine law is expected to take effect in September 2021.
Schoolchildren who claimed a non-medical exemption prior to the law taking effect will be allowed to attend school if their parent or guardian provides a written statement from a health care professional indicating they’ve been informed of the risks of refusing immunization. Medical exemptions to vaccinations will still be granted.
CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.