AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A group that wants to overturn Maine's law eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccinations raised more than three times more money than supporters of the law, according to campaign finance reports.
Mainers for Health and Parental Rights reported $203,988 in contributions and loans to press for rejection of the law in a statewide referendum on the March 3 ballot. Top donors included a University of Maine professor who gave $13,500, according to the Maine Ethics Commission Campaign Finance website.
A group that wants to keep the law, Maine Families for Vaccines PAC, reported raising $58,098. The top donors were the Maine Hospital Association, which gave $25,000, and the Maine Academy of Family Physicians, which gave nearly $5,000.
The Legislature's removal of religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccinations last year came against the backdrop of a spike in whooping cough cases in Maine.
Maine has one of the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in the nation, and health officials say they appear to be rising. Supporters of the law say high opt-out rates endanger children who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.
The legislation ends non-medical vaccine opt-outs by September 2021 for students at public schools and universities, including nursery schools, and for health care facility employees.
The People's Veto campaign to undo the elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions was made possible through by a signature-gathering campaign by opponents.