March 29, 2020
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Lawmakers should use education, not mandates, to raise vaccination rates

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
University of New England professor Kenneth McCall prepares a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination at the Portland Community Health Center in this March 2015 file photo.

I am pro-vaccine, and I will be voting Yes on 1. Let me explain why.

The pertussis vaccine was first introduced in the 1930s. Years later, many cases came to light of children who had had very serious reactions, including brain damage. In 1986, one of my children had a reaction to this vaccine. While the reaction would not be considered serious enough to get a medical exemption under the current law, we made the decision to stop all further boosters based on the recommendation of our family doctor. All of my children continued to receive every other vaccine on schedule.

Documented reactions and advocacy by parents eventually led to a safer version of this vaccine being introduced in 1992. This is important to note. Educated and involved parents helped to get a safer version of the vaccine introduced into the United States.

My daughter is now a healthy 33-year-old woman, with a healthy fully vaccinated child of her own. To this day, I stand by this decision.

While drugs are tested before they are introduced into the market, children are not included in clinical trials for obvious reasons. New medications and vaccines have only been tested on healthy adults. This is not always adequate enough information to predict how children will react. Drug reactions are real. When problems occur, and are well documented, changes are made, but not until then. Essentially when a new vaccine is introduced, the first children to receive it become the test subjects. Shouldn’t you be able to decide whether your child is in this group?

Do you remember when the HPV vaccine was first introduced and many young women were having serious reactions. Some families opted to wait to give their children this vaccine until they had more information. Many then chose to go through with the vaccine at a later date.

It is important that we remember vaccine manufacturers are for-profit drug companies that seek to bring medications to market as quickly, and as cheaply as possible, in order to maximize profits. Do you really trust them with your children’s healthcare decisions?

Most vaccines have a long history of safety and are perfectly acceptable for most healthy children. However, under the current law, new vaccines can be introduced at any time and you could be mandated to give them to your children whether or not you have concerns.

Yes on 1 supporters are not anti-vaccine, we simply do not want to lose control over our family’s health care decisions. Lack of information and fear have contributed to Maine’s low rate of fully vaccinated children. However, lawmakers would do better to spend their time and energy on programs that educate parents, so that they can, with the help of their family doctors, make well-informed decisions about their children’s health care.

I am a fully vaccinated, college-educated, professional, wife, mother and grandmother who will be voting yes on 1. I urge you to consider joining me.

Karen Foley of Skowhegan has worked in marketing, editing, mental health, education and health care.

 


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