Vermont Press Releases

Vermont pediatricians applaud Gov. Shumlin for signing bill removing philosophical exemption to immunizations

News Release — American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter
May 28, 2015

Justin Campfield
(802) 683-9889


Montpelier, Vt. (May 28, 2015) – The American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter (AAPVT) today applauded Governor Peter Shumlin for his efforts to protect the health of Vermonters by signing into law legislation that eliminates the philosophical exemption to immunizations beginning July 1, 2016.

The bill, H.98, was passed by the Vermont General Assembly on May 14, and signed by Gov. Shumlin today.

“Vermont’s pediatricians would like to thank Governor Shumlin, as well as the General Assembly and Health Commissioner Harry Chen, M.D., for their courage on this important issue,” said Barbara Frankowski, M.D., president of the AAPVT. “Eliminating the philosophical exemption will no doubt protect the health of Vermonters by increasing the state’s immunization rates and ensuring that it is more difficult for deadly and debilitating diseases to gain a foothold in the state.”

By eliminating the philosophical exemption, the AAPVT says, the state has signaled just how important immunizations are to the well-being of not only children, but all members of society.

“This isn’t just a private health issue that affects a single child or family, but a public health issue that impacts all Vermonters, in all parts of the state,” said Dr. Frankowski. “As a community, we all rely on each other’s cooperation to stave of diseases that plagued generations before us, but that we are lucky enough to know little about today.”

According to data provided by the Vermont Department of Health, during the 2013/14 school year, 56 percent of Vermont k-12 students attended a school with overall immunization rates below the 95-percent threshold considered adequate by many health care professionals to maintain herd immunity. Twenty-six percent attended a school with rates lower than 90 percent.

Vermont has the lowest childhood immunization rates in New England, and the use of the philosophical exemption has more than doubled between 2007-08 and 2014-15. In 2007-08, the rates of philosophical exemptions for kindergarteners and seventh graders were 2.7 and 1.7 percent respectively. In 2014-15, those rates went up to 5.8 and 4.0, respectively.

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  • Don Dalton

    We keep hearing that if it weren’t for immunizations we’d be subject to deadly and debilitating diseases, which thanks to vaccines most people have forgotten. We hear that those who oppose the vaccination schedule are ignorant and are falling for internet gossip on supposed vaccine dangers. The AAP assures us of these truths.
    Unfortunately in the realm of immunization truth and fiction are interwoven so that anyone can pick threads and create a plausible narrative made up partly of truths and partly of fictions. We hear that “vaccines saved us” but how true is this? In the middle of the nineteenth century half of NYC lived in crowded, unventilated tenement housing with no running water and outhouses in the backs of buildings each served 50 or more residents; food inspection was nonexistent, milk given to children was contaminated, tainted sausages were sold to the poor, and children suffered from rickets, scurvy, and pellagra– vitamin deficiencies that would have exacerbated any infectious diseases. The main killer of children wasn’t smallpox or measles but childhood diarrhea. Soap was almost nonexistent. Thanks partly to the Sanitary Movement, housing was slowly rehabilitated, food and milk inspection instituted, sewers were built and major projects to provide clean water were undertaken. From about 1905-1915 there was a huge increase in the use of soap. In truth, improved nutrition, knowledge of vitamins, clean water, sewers, personal hygiene and housing reform had a great deal to do with eradicating diseases.
    Why don’t we have bubonic plague? There are still cases in the southwestern US—did we vaccinate it away? No. We simply stopped living with the black rat that carried Yersinia pestis. Scarlet fever was a great killer and there was never an effective vaccine for it, yet we rarely hear of it today. Don’t want cholera? Then don’t poop where you drink.
    Vaccines have helped but let’s not get carried away.
    What about the “myths and fantasies” of vaccine injuries? This year a study came out from Saudi Arabia, “The Possible Association between Elevated Levels of Blood Mercury and the Increased Frequency of Serum Anti-myelin Basic Protein Auto-antibodies in Autistic Children.” Part of the findings: “Mercury stimulates vascular endothelial growth factor and IL-6 release from human mast cells. This phenomenon could disrupt the blood-brain-barrier and permit brain inflammation. As a result, low levels of mercury may contribute to autism pathogenesis.” What is the response of the AAP to this and similar finding? The AAP claims that the vaccine-autism hypothesis has been put to rest: there is no connection. This is the standard response to any study that questions vaccine safety, whether it involves mercury or aluminum toxicity or autoimmunity induced by vaccines. Any science that is consistent with parental claims of vaccine injury—and is also, by the way, consistent with claims paid out by the “vaccine court” for vaccine injury—is automatically dismissed by the AAP. This isn’t science. This is dogma.
    We can do better than this. Parents have been rightly concerned about very real vaccine injuries, very real claims paid out by the VICP, very real science that describes mechanisms of vaccine toxicity or autoimmunity. By eliminating the philosophical exemption Vermont has said “yes” to dogma, and “no” to examining the science, all of it, more closely. Vermont should not be applauded for doing so.