This measure did not pass.

The gist

This failed resolution would have repealed a law passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor removing religious and philosophical exemptions to the vaccination requirement for students attending schools and colleges and employees of nursery schools and health care facilities.

Ballot question

“Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?”1

Yes means No means
I want to allow religious or philosophical exemptions to the requirement for children to be vaccinated to attend school. I want to require all children to be vaccinated to attend school, except for those with a medical reason not to be vaccinated.

Tell me more

Maine has one of the highest vaccine opt-out rates in the country and high rates of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.2

Vaccinations required to attend school in Maine: 3

  • Kindergarten: 4-5 diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP), 4 polio, 2 measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), 1 chickenpox
  • Seventh grade: 1 DTaP, 1 meningococcal conjugate (MCV4)
  • Twelfth grade: 1-2 doses MCV4

This question is a veto referendum, which is a way for Mainers to object to new laws. In order to make it to the ballot, a petition supporting the veto must collect enough signatures to equal 10% of the number of people who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.3

Follow the money

There is no cost to enact this requirement.


The primary arguments for this veto are:

  • Some believe that the government shouldn’t intervene in medical decisions and they shouldn’t be tied to education.
  • Some people think vaccines can lead to autism, but this has been debunked by the CDC.4


The primary arguments against this veto are:

  • Immunization protects the entire community from diseases.
  • Immunization only works if a majority of the community has the vaccine.
  • Some individuals, such as those with diseases that compromise the immune system, can’t receive vaccines, so they benefit from people they interact with from having the vaccine.
  • Maine’s opt-out rate is more than 3 times the national average. It was 5.6% of kindergarteners for the 2018-19 school year. 2
  • Maine was the state with the highest rate (8 times the national average) of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in 2018. 5
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends states eliminate non-medical exemptions to stop the spread of diseases. 6

Who cares


  • Mainers for Health and Parental Rights


  • Maine Families for Vaccines

Further reading

Full Text or the Maine’s Citizen’s Guide to the Special Referendum Election
Ballotpedia Article
Bangor Daily News Article
Portland Press Herald Article


  1. Maine State Legislature. H.P. 586 - L.D. 798. Accessed January 8, 2020. 

  2. Lawlor, Joe. Health experts alarmed by record rate of opt-outs for school-required vaccinations. Portland Press Herald. Accessed January 8, 2020.  2

  3. Ballotpedia State Desk. Maine Question 1, Religious and Philosophical Vaccination Exemptions Referendum (March 2020). Ballotpedia. Accessed January 8, 2020.  2 3 4

  4. Shepard, Michale. Maine will vote on effort to repeal new school vaccine requirement in March 2020. Bangor Daily News. Accessed January 8, 2020. 

  5. Lawlor, Joe. Vaccine bill passed by lawmakers likely headed for statewide vote. Portland Press Herald. Accessed January 8, 2020. 

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Elimination of non-medical vaccine exemptions ranked top priority at Annual Leadership Forum AAP News. Accessed January 14, 2020.