Controversial bills to loosen rules on vaccine requirements in daycares and foster homes were voted down Thursday in the Montana House.
Supporters say Montana’s religious exemption for vaccines should be expanded.
Religious opt-outs are currently allowed under state health department rules for K-12 schools, but not in daycare settings or in foster care homes.
On the House floor Thursday, Missoula Democrat Connie Keogh said it’s the state’s responsibility make sure children in foster care are protected.
"Vaccines, as we’ve heard already, help protect this already vulnerable population from serious diseases," Keogh said.
Debate in the House chamber was heated as lawmakers argued over the safety of vaccines and the authority of the state to require immunization.
The House also voted down a bill which could have made it easier for people to receive medical exemptions for vaccination.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccination is very effective and vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe.
On Thursday, health officials in Washington state identified four new measles cases linked to an ongoing outbreak there and in Oregon that has sickened at least 75 people. Most are unvaccinated children under age 10.
According to an analysis of Montana’s immunization requirements in schools last year, 3.3 percent of students receive religious exemptions from vaccines and 0.4 percent receive medical exemptions.