Question 1 is not, as Al Diamon wrote in his Feb. 5 Portland Phoenix column, about “stopping a state law that says your kid has to have a few [shots] before attending public school.” Maine’s vaccine mandates will remain in place regardless of the outcome of the March 3 referendum vote. Current law even addresses any potential public health concerns posed by our small minority of students who, if “not immunized or immune from a disease shall be excluded from school and school activities … for one incubation period from the onset of symptoms of the last identified case.”
The new law, LD 798, would remove our right to delay or decline a mandated vaccine for personal or religious reasons if our children are to attend school. The law applies to all educational institutions in the state: public, private, parochial, colleges, online and trade schools. The law also affects day care employees and health care workers.
Further, Maine residents would not get to vote on proposed additions to the mandates list. New York, one of the two states that recently eliminated personal exemption rights, may become the fifth state to require HPV vaccination in middle school starting in 2021. Another New York bill under consideration will codify permission for minors to receive the HPV vaccine without parental permission.
The idea that there’s no pharma profit motive in question here is, quite frankly, absurd. The World Health Organization says that the vaccine market — valued at $5 billion in 2000 — is projected to rise to $100 billion by 2025, with vaccines “becoming an engine for the pharmaceutical industry.” Diamon argued that drug companies haven’t “donated any significant amount of money to the pro-vax campaign” a mere five days before the pharmaceutical industry dumped almost half a million dollars into television ads targeting our exemption rights.
Vaccines carry risks, but unlike other pharmaceutical products, manufacturers bear no liability for vaccine injuries. Instead, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program — funded by taxpayers to compensate petitioners who can convince a special no-fault court that vaccination played a role in an injury, disability, or death — has paid out approximately $4 billion to date.
Under LD 798, a medical exemption would be required for a person missing even one dose of a required vaccine to access education and some jobs. But I believe doctors are unqualified to assess for the presence or risk of vaccine adverse events because “lack of clinician awareness” has been identified in a report by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care as the main reason that fewer than 1 percent of vaccine adverse events are reported.
Imagine that your child has a seizure reaction to a vaccine. Do you want to rely on your doctor to decide whether or when your child should continue to receive that vaccine or others? Do you want your child’s ability to access education in the state to be contingent on that doctor’s willingness to write a medical exemption? Or do you think you are the best person to make that decision?
In a 2019 Wallet Hub ranking of states that vaccinate the most adults and children, Maine ranked 14th out of 50 states. Pertussis outbreaks in Maine are said to necessitate this law, although — due to the rapidly declining efficacy of the vaccine — nearly 80 percent of Maine whooping cough cases in 2018 occurred in those fully vaccinated against the disease.
In reality, all people will lose exemption rights in the event of a public health emergency. And that’s just it, we have no public health emergency that would be remedied by stripping Mainers of our rights on an open-ended vaccine mandates list. What we do have is a vaccination program with voluntary compliance that honors the ethical principle of informed consent. Only if you are truly orthodox in your views about the authority of the medical establishment should you vote no.
If you feel that authority over medical decisions should ultimately rest with the you, the patient or parent, vote Yes on 1.
Melissa Roberts of Freeport is a small-business owner and vaccine safety advocate.