Update: The full Senate has approved H.98 as amended, to end the philosophical exemption. Details below.
Well, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee held a purely-for-show hearing this morning on whether to remove the philosophical exemption for vaccinations. The anti-vax crowd got an hour, and the pro-vax (I call it “science”) crowd got one.
No one’s mind was changed. And the schedule clearly indicated that “changing minds” wasn’t the purpose of the hearing: the committee held a very brief discussion immediately afterward, expressed its sentiment in favor of removing the philosophical exemption, and sent it to the Senate floor for action — immediately after lunchtime. Talk about your fast track: Committee chair Claire Ayer (good to see her back at work, BTW) had barely enough time to grab some lunch and formalize the committee’s findings for presentation to the Senate.
The committee didn’t take a formal vote because technically, all they were doing was reporting to the full Senate on a couple of key questions:
— What are the benefits and/or risks of immunization?
— How does the philosophical exemption affect the efficacy of vaccination?
Although there was no vote, each member stated their positions. Four were in favor of ending the philosophical exemption (Ayer, Jeanette White, Brian Collamore, Dick McCormack) and one was opposed (Anthony Pollina).
It’s widely believed that the full Senate will approve the measure on a pretty one-sided vote this afternoon. But the debate should be interesting, and the “No” votes may include an unusual coalition of the very liberal and very conservative.
The real action will come after today, when the House and Senate will have to resolve their differences. The original House bill did nothing to the philosophical exemption. Which chamber will carry the day? And how vociferous will the anti-vax lobbying effort be?
More on the Senate vote later.
UPDATE. The Senate has approved the amendment to H. 98 ending the philosophical exemption for child vaccinations. The vote on the amendment was 18 for, 11 against, and managed the neat trick of uniting some of the most liberal and conservative members of the body.
The issue now goes, presumably, to a House-Senate conference committee, since the original H.98 didn’t include the philosophical-exemption language.
More on all of this coming later. I think.