Stolen Freedoms Regained in Stunning Blow to State Lawmakers
Barbara Loe Fisher
This month, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) joins with our Health Liberty partners to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the founding of the Health Liberty Coalition by Mercola.com.
For many years, NVIC and the non-profit Consumers for Dental Choice, Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Fluoride Action Network (FAN) and Institute for Responsible Technology have each worked to protect human health through public education and informed choice advocacy.i
At the heart of Health Liberty is respect for the informed consent and precautionary principles, which together serve as an ethical foundation for protecting consumer rights and ensuring product safety.
Whether it is the freedom to eat food that has not been genetically modified, drink water without fluoride in it, make voluntary vaccine choices, have access to affordable mercury free dental amalgams, or exercise the right to choose safer medical tests and options for healing and staying well, the partners of the Health Liberty coalition founded by Mercola.com are committed to protecting the consumer's right to know and freedom to choose.
Defending Informed Consent to Vaccination
Since 1982, NVIC's mission has been to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and we have defended without compromise the ethical principle of informed consent to medical risk-taking, which is a human right.ii
The consumer's right to know and freedom to make voluntary vaccine choices serves as a vital counterweight to lack of transparency and unchecked profit-making by pharmaceutical corporations shielded from civil liability for selling a growing list of vaccines that medical doctors and government officials insist every American should be legally required to buy and use.
This year, we are celebrating an awakening among Americans, who are rediscovering the power they individually have to make a difference by participating in the democratic process. That power was exercised in Vermont this year, when parents and enlightened health care professionals joined together to face down wealthy Pharma-funded medical trade lobbyists and influential state public health employees trying to take away the philosophical exemption to vaccination.
Health Liberty Award Goes to Citizens of Vermont
That is why NVIC is giving our 2012 Health Liberty Award to the independent-thinking, high spirited citizens of Vermont, who quickly organized this past January and successfully defended their informed consent rights by intelligently and responsibly participating in the democratic process.
For the past two years, the state of Vermont has been ranked as the number one "healthiest" state.iii Only 360 school children in Vermont had philosophical exemptions on file during the 2010-2011 school year,iv and we don't know how many parents filed a philosophical exemption because they could not find a pediatrician to write a medical exemption for their child. v Most pediatricians refuse to write medical exemptions because, in 2012, almost no vaccine reaction symptom or medical condition qualifies as an official reason to exempt a child medically. vi, vii
But, even though only 360 school children in Vermont were exempted from vaccination for philosophical belief reasons, that did not stop the Pharma/Medical Trade lobby from attacking the legal right for Vermonters to obtain a non-medical exemption to vaccination for their children. Clearly, they thought it would be easy to quickly ram anti-informed consent legislation through the Vermont legislature.
What they didn't count on was outraged Vermonters defending their right to know and freedom to choose.viii The legislative attack on the philosophical exemption to vaccination in Vermont generated heated political debate, national publicity and, in the end, was not only defeated but gave birth to a new public consciousness about what it takes to defend health liberty. As one of the bill's primary sponsors admitted: "I never thought this would turn into the mess it turned into."
Powerful Doctors Push Eliminating Personal Belief Exemption
The bill to eliminate the philosophical exemption to vaccination in Vermont (S199) was introduced on Jan. 3, 2012 in the state Senateix by Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), who is VT chair of the Pharma-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).x It was introduced in the state House by Representative George Till, M.D. (D-Chittenden), at the request of Harry Chen, M.D., Vermont's Health Commissioner. Dr. Chen was a Vermont state representative and former chair of the Vermont House Health Care Committee for four years and has publicly downplayed vaccine risks.xi
The bill was supported by the VT Dept. of Health and many medical trade associations and special interest groups, including those that receive money from pharmaceutical corporations selling vaccines in the U.S., such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), March of Dimes, Every Child by Two and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
After S199 was quickly rammed through the Senate without a public hearing and passed with a nearly unanimous 25-4 vote, Vermont parents quickly organized and founded the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.xii The new Coalition's co-founder, Jennifer Stella, volunteered to be NVIC's Vermont state director and work with Dawn Richardson, NVIC's Director of Advocacy, who led a seven-year effort to obtain conscientious belief exemption to vaccination in Texas in 2003 and manages the online NVIC Advocacy Portal to educate citizens about how to become effective vaccine choice advocates.
By the end of February, the parents of seven-year old Kaylynne Matten, who died in Vermont after a routine flu shot in December 2011, began speaking out about the need to keep the philosophical exemption intact.
To learn more, please watch the following videoxiii, which includes an interview with Kaylynne's parents.
By March 15, the newly formed Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice held a public demonstration in Montpelier, the state Capitol.xiv The Vermont Coalition founders created a website and Facebook pageand secured 1500 signatures on a petition opposing the bill.
After Vermont parents protested that the VT Senate had held no public hearings on the bill, House hearings were held March 21 evening meetingwas packed with Vermont families and health professionals opposing the bill.xv
Bill Rammed Through in the Senate
An amended version of S199 retaining the philosophical exemption was overwhelmingly approved by the full House on April 13.xvi While the amended version kept the philosophical exemption intact, it required parents to review vaccine benefit information and sign a statement every year acknowledging that taking the exemption will pose a risk to the health of their child and society.
On April 30, a specially appointed House and Senate Conference Committee was created. The Committee voted to keep the philosophical exemption unless the statewide vaccination rate drops below 90 percent for pertussis and MMR vaccine and, then, the Health Commissioner would suspend the philosophical exemption for those vaccines. xvii,xviii
The Vermont Coalition for Vaccination Choice and NVIC opposed the compromise. Jennifer Stella commented: "It basically says that only 10 percent of Vermonters get to use that right."
On May 3, behind the scenes modifications to the bill were made that removed the 90 percent vaccination rate cap and kept the philosophical exemption intact. However, the language, which forces parents to sign a statement that they agree that taking the exemption endangers their child and society, remained in the bill.
In addition, a "feasibility study" was added by bill supporters to pave the way for teachers and all school personnel to be required to show proof they are up-to-date on all government recommended vaccines in order to stay employed.
Philosophical Exemption Saved, Bill Signed by Governor
Without public hearings on the amended bill, it passed the House with a nearly unanimous 133-6 vote on May 3. On May 5, the Senate followed suit with a 20-5 vote and the bill was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin on May 16.
It was a victory for Vermont parents, who saved the exemption. Tom McLeod, a key member of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, observed that "The most dangerous place in the woods is between a mother bear and her cubs." xix
The philosophical exemption to vaccination was saved because enough citizens in Vermont woke up to the very real threat posed by multi-national corporations, which have no restrictions on the aggressive marketing of liability-free vaccine products they want every American to be legally required to buy and use. Once Vermonters saw the threat, they did not sit back and let their informed consent rights be taken from them. Because they fought for their health liberty, they became an inspiration to all Americans, who want to be free to make informed, voluntary health choices.
Battle for Vaccine Choice Being Waged in Other States
The battle to protect vaccine freedom of choice in Vermont is not over, and it continues in states like West Virginia, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and others. In California, a pediatrician legislator, Assemblyman Richard Pan, M.D., introduced a bill in February to impose restrictions on the personal belief exemption to vaccination and it was quickly passed by the Assembly and is rapidly moving through the Senate.
The California bill (AB2109) will force parents, who are filing a personal belief exemptionfor children to attend school, to pay a medical doctor or other designated medical practitioner (D.O., medical assistant, nurse practitioner or N.D. under the supervision of an M.D.) for an appointment to have the personal belief exemption form signed. Without a medical provider signature, the personal belief exemption form will not be valid and the child will be barred from attending school.
Watch an NVIC public service message about California Assembly bill AB2109.
Watch a public hearing on the CA bill.
Empower Yourself with Information and Take Action Now!
NVIC was on the front lines defending health liberty in 2011, as we have been for 30 years:
- Co-sponsoring anonline annual Vaccine Awareness Week with Mercola.com;xx, xxi
- Sponsoring informed choice messages on Delta Airlinesxxii,, xxiiiand in Times Square;xxiv, xxv
- Operating the oldest and largest vaccine safety and choice information website on the Internet and daily educating 35,000 Fans on Facebook;
- Serving as America's vaccine safety watchdog by monitoring and reporting on vaccine science,xvi regulation,xxvii policymaking xxviii,xxixand lawxxx through e-newsletters, press releases, referenced commentariesxxxi,xxxiiand special reports.xxxiii
You can be a vaccine safety and choice advocate today by becoming a user of the free online NVIC Advocacy Portal and participating in the democratic process. Go to www.NVICAdvocacy.org and use the Portal to contact your legislators with the touch of an iPhone screen or click of a computer mouse and make your voice heard.
Be part of the growing, state-based national network of concerned families and health care professionals working with NVIC and Mercola.com to protect vaccine choices in America. If we all fight for the consumer's right to know and freedom to choose, we can win back health liberty in the states, where it has been lost, and protect it in states, like Vermont, where citizens care enough and are brave enough to stand their ground.
Our mission continues: No forced vaccination. Not in America.
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