Health Care

Demonstrators urge Shumlin to veto vaccine bill

Demonstrators take part in a march urging Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto H.98 and restore the right for parents to not vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons for school admission. The protest was organized Tuesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
Demonstrators take part in a march urging Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto H.98. The protest was organized Tuesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger

About 50 people, many of them carrying babies, pushing baby strollers or with young children by their sides – and a few expectant mothers – demonstrated outside the Vermont Statehouse on Tuesday, urging Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto H.98 and give them a choice on whether to vaccinate their children for school.

Shumlin is expected to sign the bill into law.

The legislation eliminates the so-called philosophical exemption, which gives parents the right to opt out of immunizations required by schools.

The law does not remove the religious and medical exemptions to the vaccines required for school entry, although it does make minor changes to the process of maintaining a medical exemption.

“The governor believes that vaccines work and that parents should get their kids vaccinated,” Shumlin’s spokesman, Scott Coriell, said. “He knows there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue.”

Coriell said the law passed two years ago did not increase vaccination rates. The governor hopes the elimination of the philosophical exemption will boost the number of children who are immunized in Vermont.

The Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, which organized Tuesday’s protest, has published an online petition urging the governor to veto the bill; more than 300 people had signed it by Tuesday morning.

The petition language can be seen here.

Protesters hoped their loud chanting on the corner in front of the Pavilion Office Building where the governor’s office is located would be heard by state officials.

Protesters carried signs that read: “Veto bill H.98,” “support informed consent,” “my body, my choice,” “CDC science corruption” and “no forced vaccinations.”

Two years ago the Legislature passed Act 157, which came about amid a statewide pertussis, or whooping cough, epidemic. The law fell short of recommendations for universal vaccination, but added an extra step for parents who wished for exemption.

Morgan LaCroix of Bolton was one of the demonstrators, with her son, James, 5, marching beside her, and her infant Hazel, six months, in a carrier on her chest.

LaCroix said she suffered a “pretty serious vaccine reaction” when she was a child, and said families should have a right to choose. “I shouldn’t have to play Russian roulette with my kids,” she said.

She said James had received some vaccinations at the urging of her pediatrician, but she’s learned more since and will not have him vaccinated again. Hazel will not receive any vaccines, she said.

Morgan LaCroix of Bolton, with her son, James, 5, and her daughter, Hazel, six months, takes part in a protest of H.98, recently passed legislation that will take away the philosophical exemption to allow families to not vaccinate their children for school entry. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
Morgan LaCroix of Bolton, with her son, James, 5, and her daughter, Hazel, six months, takes part in a protest of H.98. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger

Dennis Morrisseau of West Pawlet carried a huge syringe in the protest, and said he hopes the governor will veto the bill.

“You’re not sticking me with anything … how simple is that?” asked Morrisseau.

Joan Kahn of Montpelier, who has two children, ages 11 and 15, said those who are urging for choice are not anti-vaccine for others.

“To me this is really about health freedom,” she said.

Dr. Sandy Reider, a doctor from Lyndonville, said the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice does not expect Shumlin to veto the bill, but said, “Health freedom is a human right from a physician’s point of view, that’s it.”

However Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD, fiercely advocated for the bill in an opinion piece this year.

First citing the declared elimination of measles in the U.S. in 2000, he wrote, “Now fast forward to today … we are in the middle of a widespread measles outbreak that started in Disneyland, of all places. With more than 120 cases of measles … we are well on our way to exceeding last year’s total of 644 cases in the U.S. – the greatest number since this highly infectious disease was declared eliminated. How do we find ourselves in this dangerous situation?”

“Yes, this outbreak is a result of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. There is no controversy. Giving vaccines, like the MMR vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella, is the most important action parents can take to protect their children from illness or death.”

Daniel Hollister of Worcester said his younger brother, Michael, developed debilitating medical problems at the age of nine months immediately following his vaccinations as a baby; he lost his sight, his ability to digest food, and suffered until shortly after his fourth birthday, when he died.

Hollister said 35 years later, his older brother’s son also suffered injuries following vaccinations at the age of 1, and his brother’s family has received compensation because of the injuries. He said he and his wife have chosen not to vaccinate their daughter, who is 6, because of what his family has witnessed in two generations.

“My wife and I were on the fence,” Hollister said of vaccinating their daughter, but after seeing his nephew have complications, he said, “I don’t want to play that lottery.”

In 2013, the Vermont Department of Health began a public awareness initiative and website, called It’s OK to Ask, that took a conversational approach to the questions parents have about adverse reactions. The site also offers information about vaccines, school entry law, and a history of infectious diseases.

According to the most recent Department of Health figures, there are 3,479 children in Vermont covered by philosophical exemptions, which represents 3.8 percent of all students in the state.

Demonstrators take part in a march urging Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto H.98 and restore the right for parents to not vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons for school admission. The protest was organized Tuesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
Demonstrators take part in a march urging Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto H.98 and restore the right for parents to not vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons for school admission. The protest was organized Tuesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
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  • kevin ellis

    With all respect to headline writers everywhere, I contend that the headline on this story calling the protesters “anti-vaccine” is inaccurate. As the lobbyist for the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, I came to understand that these activists and parents are far more concerned about their rights and obligations to protect their children and the choices they have in doing so. Many of them vaccinate their children. Others want to vaccinate according to a more forgiving schedule, rather than what the state recommends. As the schedule of shots grows above 60 and counting, parents are rightly concerned about what this means for their kids. They are not “anti-vaccine.” They are protesters for sure.

  • Chuck Kletecka

    If you don’t want your child to be immunized, fine. Just don’t expect the rest of us to pay for their education. We collectively pay the bill so we should have some say on what the rules are.

    Most of us don’t mistrust outright the evidence of medical science. Creationists and climate change deniers aside, consensus understanding carries some weight for the rest of us.

    What I don’t understand is why the law applies to privately funded schools. If you’re footing the bill, with other like minded parents, you should have every right to pick your own level of risk. Just don’t expect the test of us to agree and pay for it.

    • Don Dalton

      We should very seriously consider the possibility that the science on vaccines has been distorted in order to protect the vaccine program, and this overriding desire has been reinforced by the pharmaceutical industry’s desire to increase vaccine sales. In fact we need an honest assessment of all the science on vaccines, because at this point the public and most physicians believe that vaccines are incredibly safe and have been thoroughly tested, when that’s not what the science says.
      We should be far quicker to examine the science and far more reluctant to remove the rights of parents to decide whether they want their children vaccinated, and to what extent. Instead we seem to be quick to remove parental rights and extremely slow to look at the science on vaccines. I’ll wager that there are some retired MDs and scientists out there who have a little more free time and who’d be quite astonished at what the science really says. Here’s a good place to start:
      Here’s another:

  • Taking away parental rights will not boost immunizations, it will force parents to home school. Just not right, they pay their school taxes and should be allowed in school whether they delay vax, selectively vax or non vax. It is the parent’s choice, not big government.

  • Curtis Sinclair

    There are well over 100 papers that show no link between autism and vaccines.

    The Autism Science Foundation also lists study after study that proves there is no link between vaccines and autism.

    The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute link gives biased studies. Many of the vaccine studies listed have been discredited by the World Heath Organization.

    The founder of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, Claire Dwoskin is so biased against vaccines that she said “Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

    • Don Dalton

      I tend to agree with Claire Dwoskin, although I wouldn’t put it as strongly. We all have biases or opinions, for whatever reason. And for every study that supports “no link” you can put up another study that says that a link is possible.

      Let’s remember that many of these studies showing “no link” have been sponsored by the CDC, including the IOM 2004 report on vaccines and autism which is considered definitive. But we should be a little suspicious of the CDC. In a fairly recent scandal the CDC misled the public about the safety of lead levels in the water in Washington, D.C. between 2001 and 2004, using flawed data to come to the conclusion that lead levels in the water were safe. Also let’s not forget that it was the HHS, the parent organization of the CDC, which conducted the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on African-American men from 1932-1972 without their consent, and denied lifesaving treatment to them. I’m sorry, but although the CDC and HHS may have changed their ways, I’m not about to give them a pass on any of their science without looking at it very carefully indeed. We can imagine that the CDC Whistleblower, William Thompson, was telling the truth when he stated (informally) that he and others were ordered to falsify data on the autism-vaccine studies, one of which has been held up to be the “best of the best” of those types of studies.

      Getting back to the definitive 2004 IOM report, there are a number of curious things in it. For one thing it repeats the claim that was published in Pediatrics in 2001 to the effect that children only received doses of ethylmercury that were “a little bit” above some safe standards, if you average it out over six months. Is that what the emergency room doctor does when someone comes in with an overdose of heroin or aspirin—average it out over six months and decide on that basis that no harm was done? The truth is that nearly all children received doses of ethylmercury that were far above even the most lenient safe reference dose, and some received doses 125 times above the EPA safe reference dose—in one set of shots. That doesn’t count the ethylmercury in doses received before and after that particular vaccination session before the age of six months.

      If this is “science,” then someone please tell me how much a child would have to weight today to get a safe dose of ethylmercury from some multidose flu shots that contain 25 mcg of ethylmercury per dose, when the EPA safe reference dose is 0.1 mcg/kg? You can do the math but I’ll tell you: 550 pounds. Perhaps Vermont’s head of the Department of Health can explain this to me because I’m just not that smart and can’t for the life of me figure out why we’d do this.

      Yes, go ahead, take away the philosophical exemption: that’s the solution.

      • Curtis Sinclair

        You should not be fear-mongering about vaccines. Your knowledge of science is obviously very limited. Otherwise you would understand that EPA limits are based upon safe daily consumption for LIFE. The EPA uses 75 years as life-long consumption. That means someone has to get more than 0.1 mcg/kg of methymercury for 75 years for it to cause health problems.

        Also notice that EPA limit is for methymercury, not ethylmercury, which is the form found in Thimerosal. Methylmercury is known to be much more toxic than ethylmercury. In addition ethylmercury is cleared from the body much more quickly than methylmercury. Data from studies in human infants that were given routine immunizations with thimerosal-containing vaccines showed that mercury levels in blood and urine were uniformly below safety guidelines for methyl mercury and that unlike methylmercury excretory profiles, infants excreted significant amounts of mercury in stool after thimerosal (ethylmercury) exposure, thus removing mercury from their bodies.

        Pichichero , M.E. , Cernichiari, E., Lopreiato, J., Treanor, J., “Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thimerosal: A descriptive study,” Lancet;360(9347):1737-1741, 2002

        • Don Dalton

          I’ll get back to you once I look at the Pichichero study but for now I’ll just question where you get your figures for lifelong consumption of ethylmercury? I’ve never seen that, and I’ve read a lot about ethylmercury.
          Secondly, you know that despite the fact that we’ve injected millions of kid with ethylmercury and still do, the CDC hasn’t seen fit to give it a lot of study, but nevertheless the Academy of Science has determined that the safe reference dose for ingested methylmercury, 0.1 mcg/kg, is valid for injected ethylmercury. You also know, I suppose, that the safe reference dose is 10x less than the benchmark dose, which is the blood level that corresponds to 5% of children suffering from neurological deficits as a result of exposure. Notice that this is blood level and has nothing to do with “life-long-consumption.” So 0.1mcg as a safe reference dose means 1 mcg/kg as a benchmark dose, and so how does 25 mcg in the multidose flu shot stack up?

        • Don Dalton

          Where on earth did you get the 75-year toxic dosing information from? It’s simply not correct. By that logic if you take a heroin overdose it’s OK because it’s within the 75-year lifetime toxic accumulation at say 1 unit per day or whatever it would be.

          Note that Pichichero states that organic mercury (i.e., ethyl or methyl) readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and fetuses are more sensitive to mercury exposure. Doesn’t that bother anyone? Remember we still recommend flu shots for pregnant women and so far as I know there is no precaution against getting the multidose vial, which contains 25mcg ethylmercury per dose. Burbacher 2005, “Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal,” showed that ethylmercury accumulates in the brain and contradicts much of what Pichichero states about ethylmercury half-life, and shows that ethylmercury should be considered equitoxic with methylmercury. It’s hard to believe we’re arguing about whether it’s OK to give children and pregnant women mercury when the medical community is unanimous in stating we should be avoiding all forms of mercury exposure. Eat fish? Be careful. Inject ethylmercury? Go for it!!

  • Rory Malone

    Ahh the tyranny of the vocal minority at work. While I have zero faith in Shumlin, particularly in health care related areas, I hope he does the right thing and signs this bill.

    • Rory Malone

      Which he did.

  • Ralph Harper

    Don…guess you do not understand risk vs therapeutic benefit. Were you vaccinated as a child ?

    • Don Dalton

      You don’t understand the risk– that’s my point. Beyond any doubt, the science tells us that mercury is dangerous in the doses given, aluminum is dangerous in the doses given, and the science is rapidly mounting that environmental toxins, including vaccine ingredients, contribute to the very real rise in neurological disorders we’re seeing in children. That is what the science says. What the CDC says is something completely different and is a distortion of the science. The CDC influences what journals print and what doctors read, and it is a plain, blatant, and some would say fraudulent misrepresentation of the science on vaccine safety– and this is because its ties to the pharmaceutical industry are far too cozy. I mentioned the ethylmercury deception numerous times: the CDC, through the IOM 2004 report, wildly misrepresented the doses of ethylmercury children were given. Even today we give young children 25 mcg of ethylmercury in multidose flu vaccines, a dose that is many times above any safe limit according to any scientific standard. I’ve repeated this numerous times– I’m not sure what’s so hard about it. Mercury in all its forms is toxic: we know that beyond a doubt. Toxicologists have established safe reference doses for ethylmercury using methylmercury, and have agreed the 0.1mcg injected ethylmercury EPA standard is equivalent to 0.1 mcg ingested methylmercury. We know that. There is no doubt about the safe reference dose, and you can argue all you want about whether ethylmercury is as bad as methylmercury but the established, scientific safe reference dose is the established safe reference dose, period. We give children 25 mcg of ethylmercury per dose in the multidose flu shot and that means a child would have to weight 550 pounds to get a safe dose. We know that. There is no disputing that. So when you tell me that I don’t know the risk my reply is that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and judging from the ethylmercury risks that we casually subject our children– and pregnant women– to, neither do most of our doctors, and you can thank the CDC for that misinformation and distortion of the science.
      If the CDC can’t get this simple fact straight, then you can imagine what other blunders they’ve made with regard to vaccine safety. I’m all for safe vaccines. I’m not for trading freedom from some diseases, many of which can be handled without vaccines, for neurological damage in children, and I’m not about to get on the bandwagon that says to just stop asking questions and get vaccinated.

      • Don Dalton

        And to top off the utter insanity of it, ethylmercury isn’t a necessary ingredient in any vaccine.

      • Don Dalton

        Clarification: EPA safe reference dose for ethylmercury is 0.1 mcg/kg.

  • timothy price

    This past week’s events have fully exposed Governor Peter Shumlin’s elitist identity. He has sided, not with the interests and real health concerns of the people of Vermont, he has placed into law provisions the place public health as massive risk of large scale degradation over the years.
    Couple this with his announce position to support Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders, and we get the picture.
    This should give Bernie another boost as we see the wolves separate from the sheep.The people are wise to the fallacy that any of the power elite will willingly abandon one of their own, no matter how evil they are. Bernie is not one of them. As the criminal politicians and their media coalesce, like the sludge in a gold pan, look for small bright glimmer of what is precious and take it in as your own.
    Shumlin, vaccines, and Clinton are harmful to our people… period.

  • JC Lincoln

    I think our congressmen and senators should be first in line with their children and grand-children to get them vaccinated.
    It would be interesting to see how many of those children come down with autism.