AUGUSTA, Maine — A Sanford representative introduced a bill Monday that would require doctors and their staff members to disclose vaccine ingredients to parents before they agree to have their children immunized.
The measure, LD 754, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Andrea Boland, ran into stiff opposition from doctors, who said that requiring ingredients be disclosed specifically for vaccines — while not imposing similar requirements for antibiotics and prescription drugs — would signal that vaccines are disproportionately dangerous.
Boland, who introduced a similar measure two years ago that failed in both the House and Senate, said doctors shouldn’t be concerned about having to disclose vaccine ingredients to parents.
“Our position should be that it is society’s obligation to fully inform them before they sign their names,” she said at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “When you read some of [the ingredients], it does sound kind of scary. The provider is there to counsel their patients, and they can assure them that they will not have any serious side effects and it’s the best thing to do.”
Boland’s legislation comes as vaccine rates in Maine and elsewhere are slipping amid growing concerns about the ingredients in vaccines and related effects on health. Doctors and their representatives who testified Monday said a declining vaccination rate is a cause for concern, and Maine is seeing communicable diseases such as pertussis, more frequently as a result.
Doctors already discuss benefits and risks of vaccines with parents, said Dr. Stephen DiGiovanni, a pediatrician at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Doctors can easily review ingredient lists with patients upon request, but there’s often little value in doing that, he said.
“There’s no other medication where I have to read the ingredients to the patients,” DiGiovanni said. “Reading ingredients will not add any safety improvements or value to this conversation.”
A law requiring that doctors disclose vaccine ingredients, he said, would likely result in lower vaccination rates. And the disclosure requirement would add an administrative burden at busy clinics such as his, which performs 8,000 vaccinations annually.
“I would see my clinic coming to a bit of a standstill and personnel being pulled from other functions,” he said. “This law would decrease immunization rates.”
Representatives from the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maine Osteopathic Association also testified in opposition to the ingredient disclosure measure.
For Boland, though, the primary concern is that parents have access to complete information about vaccines and their ingredients.
“Parents and guardians have a right to know exactly what is being injected into their children,” she said.