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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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The right to say no

S.199 (a bill currently in the Vermont House) threatens to remove a Vermonter’s right to say no to a vaccine for their child if they wish to send them to any licensed school or daycare facility in Vermont. Over 1,400 concerned citizens have coalesced over this issue and the purpose of this letter is to explain why coalition members strongly believe we must hold fast to the philosophical exemption.

I will start by asking, do you read food labels? Read patient information for prescription meds? Read the fine print before signing a contract? We take time to ensure we are making informed decisions on a variety of topics. Why not vaccines? Vaccines are for-profit pharmaceutical products delivered by syringe directly into the bloodstream.

Vaccines have been used as important tools in the public health toolbox over the years. But a lot has changed. Since we were children, vaccines have turned into big business ($20-plus billion in the U.S.) and huge profits (10 percent annual growth) and have no product liability. Vermont is the number one healthiest state and Vermonters are vaccinating their children, despite growing concerns. Why change?

Parents can and must weigh all facts when it comes to medical decisions for their kids. A rise in the rate of philosophical exemptions over the last few years is not surprising. This is because newer vaccines like those for chicken pox and hepatitis B have been launched. They are now required for school. Is it irrational or unscientific for a parent to decline the hepatitis B vaccine, which has been shown to cause liver damage? Or the chicken pox vaccine, which has a 1 in 1,250 rate of seizures?

Why do we require a hepatitis B vaccine for Vermont schoolchildren anyhow? That virus is transmitted by contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e., semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. And, prior to the launch of the vaccine, chicken pox was largely a mild childhood illness.

Vaccines are often compared to seatbelts but are more like air bags. They can/do go off at the wrong time or explode too forcefully. Like vaccines, they can cause death or disability. That is why most vehicles today have switches to turn airbags on or off, and why Vermont has always had (since 1979) the philosophical exemption. Even before liability was lifted from vaccine makers and doctors, Vermonters have had the philosophical exemption available to them. Since that time, over $2.3 billion has been paid out due to vaccine injuries. When injuries occur, only the parent is responsible – manufacturers and doctors have been released from liability and there is no follow up.

There is a glaring absence of substantive proof that there is a need to limit rights and change the law. The last endemic transmission of polio virus (which is transmitted through feces) in the United States was in 1979, and chicken pox is not smallpox.

Vermont is the number one healthiest state. Perhaps improved consumer protections for Vermont children against an exploding childhood vaccination schedule would be a better approach.

For more information or to sign the petition to keep the philosophical exemption, please visit www.vaxchoicevt.com.

Jennifer Stella lives in Waitsfield and is the leader of VT Coalition for Vaccine Choice.


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