Montana Considers New Wave of Legislation to Loosen Vaccination Rules

by | Mar 10, 2023 | Health

When Deb Horning’s youngest daughter was 5, she got her measles, mumps, and rubella shot like many other kindergartners. But unlike many other moms, Horning had to stay away from her daughter for a week after the shot.

Horning, 51, was diagnosed in 2014 with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive cancer — the five-year survival rate for those older than 20 is 27%. Horning had been through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, which severely weakened her immune system. Because the MMR vaccine contains live virus, she couldn’t get the vaccine herself and had to temporarily avoid her vaccinated daughter.

Now, Horning is worried about Montana legislation that could further compromise her and other immunocompromised people by making it easier for more people to opt out of routine vaccinations.

“If they do allow this, and a significant amount of people don’t vaccinate their kids, then there could be community spread,” Horning said. “And then I’m really in danger, the same as a newborn is in danger.”

In 2021, Montana passed House Bill 702 — the first of its kind in the nation — which prohibited discrimination based on vaccine status in settings like employment, education, and health care. In effect, it banned private businesses and local governments from requiring employees to be vaccinated, not just against covid-19 but any disease. A federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional in health care settings in a lawsuit filed by hospitals, medical providers, and nurses. Two other lawsuits challenging HB 702, one by private businesses and another by tribal nations, are pending.

This year, lawmakers have introduced proposals to expand vaccine exemptions in schools and change criteria in the workplace and the legal system.

Proponents of the school-re …

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