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Maine Voices: Proposal to Require Vaccine 'Counseling' a Slap in the Face of Parents


FREEPORT — Maine parents would be wise to consider the implications of a vaccine-related bill – L.R. 1098, An Act To Require Childhood Immunization Counseling – recently introduced by Democratic Portland Rep. Richard Farnsworth.

L.R. 1098 proposes that parents who seek an exemption from the regimen of vaccines required in order for their children to attend public school in Maine now be required to attend counseling and to obtain the signature of a health care provider before their exemption will be considered.

The objective of this bill, as reported in the Portland Press Herald, is to decrease the rate of parents opting out of vaccinations – a trend that some fear could lead to a resurgence of preventable diseases.

The federal government directs health care providers to give infants and children 69 doses of 16 distinct vaccines, starting at birth with 49 doses given before age 6 – more than any other developed nation.

Under existing Maine law, parents can opt out of all or some of these vaccines by stating in writing a sincere religious or philosophical objection. This is in keeping with our tradition of civil liberties, independent thinking and respect for the informed consent ethic. The state should not interfere with parents’ right to make their own informed decisions.

Yet Farnsworth’s proposed bill does just that. Requiring a one-sided, government-designed counseling session insults and discriminates against parents who do their own research and decide, based on the evidence, that certain vaccines pose a risk to or are otherwise not appropriate for their children.

Requiring a health care provider to sign off on the parents’ decision wrongfully removes the decision-making authority from the parent. This paternalistic approach is out of step with Maine’s respect for the freedom of our citizens to make their own health care decisions.

Pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies want you to think that vaccines are safe for everyone. But vaccines are pharmaceutical products that provide both benefits and well-documented risks acknowledged by Congress, medical researchers and independent scientific bodies.

People do not all react the same way to drugs or vaccines. Over the past 30 years, the Institute of Medicine – the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences – has published a series of reports outlining the large gaps in vaccine safety science, and confirming that some people are genetically, biologically and environmentally more susceptible to serious vaccine reactions that can lead to chronic brain and immune dysfunction.