Credit: George Danby

Maine will make history March 3 as the first state in the nation to have a popular vote on vaccine mandates. We hope that history will also be made that same day by a majority of yes votes for our great state being the first to see through the fear and deception used to pass and defend a terrible law that, we believe, has no documented need, will have a negative impact on public health, and will expel thousands of Mainers from school and employment.

A yes vote on Question 1 changes nothing in our state immediately because the new law doesn’t go into effect until September 2021. In the 2018-19 school year, Maine’s vaccination rate for kindergarten students ranged from 93.8 percent for MMR to 95.9 percent for varicella, known as chickenpox. We had this high vaccination rate while still allowing parents and adults the opportunity to make their own informed medical choices with their doctors. Current vaccination rates are high compared with two decades ago.

A no vote will enforce the new law and could remove thousands of healthy Maine children and adults from day care, schools (public, private, parochial, online) and colleges, as well as terminate day care and health care workers if they are missing as little as one dose of one vaccine.

It will do nothing to change public health as these individuals will all continue to share the same public spaces, and the law does not apply to teachers, school administrators, lunch staff, bus drivers, volunteers, or any child with a current individualized education program. The children and adults who could be removed are your friends and neighbors, active and respected members of their communities. A no vote may divide and segregate our great state.

So, you might be wondering why we are even voting on a law that we believe will have no impact on public health and will kick healthy Mainers out of school and work? The answer to that question is Big Pharma. The pharmaceutical industry is lobbying lawmakers here in Maine and across the nation to pass coercive and restrictive mandates like this.

The same industry that perpetuated the opioid crisis which has ravaged Maine also manufactures vaccines. Yet when it comes to vaccines, those same companies like Merck, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, have no liability for injuries that occur.

Since liability was removed from the manufacturers, the vaccine schedule has tripled to 69 recommended doses of vaccines for children by age 18. To ensure a supply of vaccines, a taxpayer-funded compensation program was created for families to navigate when they experience a serious reaction or a death as a result of a vaccine. To date, despite the fact that a Harvard Pilgrim study found less than 1 percent of vaccine injuries are reported, the fund has paid out more than $4.2 billion. According to a recent headline, “vaccines power [the] profit beat” of one pharmaceutical company and vaccines are money makers.

What does that have to do with what’s happening here in Maine? Those very manufacturers have contributed more than a half a million dollars to influence this election. The No on 1 campaign received $250,000 from Merck and $250,000 from Pfizer, two multinational corporations that are known for putting profits over the safety of patients. A half-million dollars is significant here in Maine, but it comes easy to Big Pharma giants like Merck, which reported $8 billion in sales globally in 2019 on vaccines alone.

Who do you trust more, the Maine people who have volunteered and powered the opportunity for us to vote on this issue, or the pharmaceutical industry that helped push this law through our Legislature and is now spending big money to try to influence your vote? We urge all Mainers to vote Yes on 1 to reject Big Pharma and to restore our medical freedom.

Cara Sacks and Sarah Kenney are the campaign managers for Yes on 1.