Vermont Press Releases

Concerned parents come together over vaccination bill

For immediate release
March 21, 2012

Jennifer Stella
Phone: 802 917 3230

Joan Kahn
Phone: 802 223 3005

In response to S199, a bill intended to eliminate Vermont’s philosophical exemption to vaccines, concerned parents formed the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. Since that time, the coalition has grown rapidly, and a petition on the coalition’s website has garnered over 1200 signers. This bill is reportedly one of the most controversial bills of the 2012 legislative season, probably because it threatens a parent’s right to decide what is best for their child in the face of a pharmaceutical model of health, at a time when 38% or more of Vermonters are choosing complementary and alternative medical pathways.

Comprised of parents with vaccinated, partially-vaccinated, vaccine-injured and unvaccinated children as well as healthcare providers, members are from every side of the political spectrum and are religious and non-religious persons. Members of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice feel passionate about parental rights and parental authority to consent to vaccinations for their kids and believe that while doctors need to more adequately outline the risks of vaccines, there is no “compromising” on parental consent.

Justin and Nicole Matten of Barton, Vermont joined the coalition in February. After losing their daughter due to an adverse reaction from the flu vaccine in December, they visited the statehouse hoping to speak with senators about their concerns over the S.199 bill prior to the senate vote. Their voices do not seem to have been taken into account: the senate voted 25-4 in favor of the bill, mainly due to concerns over the danger of a new polio epidemic.

This is interesting, since endemic polio was eradicated in this country in 1979 and the polio immunization rate last year for Kindergartners was 91.6%, while the rate for seventh graders was 98.5%.

S.199 may soon be taken up by the House of Representatives, and a public hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, March 21, from 6-8 pm.

Why do parents use this philosophical exemption? Jennifer Stella (coalition leader) of Waitsfield says, “Vaccines are important tools. But they are often compared to seat belts and that is inaccurate because they are more like air bags. They can and do go off at the wrong time or explode too forcefully. Like vaccines, air bags can cause death or disability. That is why most vehicles today have switches to turn airbags on or off, and why Vermont and 20 other states allow philosophical exemption. While it is true that some choose no vaccinations at all, the majority of parents opt out of only one vaccine today in VT and that vaccine is for chicken pox.”

Federal law shielded manufacturers in 1986 from liability should someone be injured from vaccines. In that time, over $2.3 billion has been awarded in damages. The same law requires that a Vaccine Information Statement be provided before administering a vaccine, but ultimately it is the parent who has authority to decide what is best. Parents have the duty, and the right to protect their children, particularly when nobody else is taking responsibility, say members of the coalition.

The death of KayLynne Matten last December was a tragic consequence of the failure of manufacturers to outline adequate risk information to parents. KayLynne’s mother, Nicole says, “If I would have known the reactions and symptoms of adverse reactions to vaccination, I would have had her seen immediately. If I would have known about the risks and symptoms, I would have been most likely able to save my daughter,” said Nicole. “I feel that Vermonters need to be educated and be able to make their own decisions on whether or not they want to vaccinate their children and pediatricians and physicians, as well, need to be more educated.”

This week in Vermont, timely Community Screenings of the Greater Good Movie will be shown here in Vermont. This film explores the cultural intersections where parenting meets modern medicine and individual rights collide with politics when it comes to the modern childhood vaccination schedule. It offers parents, doctors and policy makers a safe space to speak openly, actively listen and to learn from one another. The coalition members hope that the film will, “open a dialog that we are otherwise quietly and politely dancing around,” says Stella.

Policymakers and the general public are invited to attend at either of the screenings which will be held on:

Thursday, March 22 @ 7 – 9 pm
Big Picture Theater, Waitsfield

Friday, March 23 @ 12 – 2 pm
Room 11, State House, Montpelier

For more information, visit

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