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Mississippi parents who oppose the state’s stringent vaccination laws likely won’t see a loosening of those rules this legislative session, but a top lawmaker announced Monday that they would take a deeper look at the issue.
Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, announced during a Judiciary B Committee meeting that the Mississippi Vaccine Research Group would tackle research and “reach solutions on this topic.”
The move comes after a contentious hearing last week on House Bill 1505, which would allow religious exemptions to vaccinations.
“The large numbers of concerned parents on this issue with personal examples bear witness to one thing most all legislators can agree on, there are problems with current vaccination exemptions in Mississippi.”
Mississippi currently only allows medical exemptions to vaccinations. Currently, 47 states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of their religious beliefs. The only exceptions are West Virginia, California and Mississippi.
“The unavailability of any religious exemption in Mississippi is troubling to many parents, myself included,” said Gipson, who is also a Baptist preacher.
Tuesday marks a deadline for the House and Senate to pass general bills out of committee. Instead calling for a committee vote on HB 1505, Gipson announced the formation of the study group, avoiding what could have been a protracted battle on the House floor.
The House speaker will appoint members of the commission that will hear from researchers, medical professionals, and parents, Gipson said. The committee will deliver a report with research and recommendations by Dec. 15, 2018.
“Members of the Legislature want to know how the religious exemptions operate in the 47 states nationwide which do provide their citizens with religious exemptions,” Gipson said. “Other unanswered questions include why existing medical exemptions appear to be so very difficult to obtain in Mississippi.”