August 20, 2019
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Consider the risks of both diseases and vaccinations

Alex Acquisto | BDN
Alex Acquisto | BDN
Opponents of a bill that would that would remove exemptions that currently allow Maine parents to opt out of vaccinating their children gathered at the State House complex, March 13, 2019.

Last month, I attended the public hearing for LD 798, a bill that will remove religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccines for children who attend all day cares (including church day care centers), public and private schools pre-K through grade 12, and public and private universities and nursing schools. It also removes these exemptions for those who work in health care facilities and anywhere vaccines are written into Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Education policy.

The hearing started at 1 p.m. and went until 2:15 a.m. — more than 13 hours of testimony were shared by doctors, nurses, school administrators, parents, pastors, legislators, lawyers and more.

Some of the doctors who supported the bill shared testimony about how they had sat with families whose children were sick or dying of complications from a vaccine targeted disease. Many parents who opposed the bill shared how their children were sick, permanently injured or had died from vaccine injury. Both of these scenarios are truly heart breaking.

It saddened me that some of those same doctors brushed off the reality that vaccine injury occurs and made it clear that we should, in part based on their compelling anecdotal evidence, be forced to vaccinate to prevent the potential complications of disease. The message from these particular doctors seemed to be that severe injury from vaccines is “extremely rare” and should not be a factor in decision making. But the “extremely rare” complications from disease are to be feared and avoided at all cost. Yet, those who question the safety and efficacy of vaccines are often criticized because it’s believed those parents are making decisions based on anecdotal evidence and not science.

If you ask a parent whose child has died or narrowly escaped death if they would have vaccinated to prevent the complication from disease, they would undoubtedly say yes. But please do not consider that scenario without considering this one: the parent who believed vaccines were 100 percent safe and whose child was injured for life or died as a result of the vaccine they trusted to prevent harm. That parent would also give anything to rewind the clock and forego the same vaccine the first would have chosen.

This is an observation from listening to testimony all day and all night, into the wee hours of the next morning. That said, information about complications from diseases can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website. They are real.

Information about complications and side effects from vaccines can also be found on the CDC website and vaccine package inserts. They are also real.

It’s a lot to consider.

We have no way of knowing the future. There are potential complications and life threatening consequences from not vaccinating, but it is clear from sitting through 13 hours of testimony in Augusta, scrolling through the CDC website and reading the vaccine package inserts that there are potential complications and life-threatening consequences from vaccinating and it may not be as rare as some suppose.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. This is the difficult reality. We need to protect our freedom as parents to prayerfully consider these things and make an informed decision. Where there is risk, there must be choice.

Tessa Burpee of Brewer, formerly the executive director of a nonprofit that provided business planning, marketing and soil quality education and assistance to farmers all over Maine, is a military wife, homeschool mom, photographer and manager of sales and marketing for her family’s farm.


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