Text Size:

Turning Vaccine Exemptions Into Class Warfare

Posted: 9/14/2012 1:57:11 AM | with 16 comments

by Barbara Loe Fisher

It is getting uglier and uglier out there, as angry, frustrated doctors inside and outside of government work overtime to foster fear and hatred of parents making conscious vaccine choices for their children. The latest political dirty trick is to brand parents, who send their children to private schools, as selfish and a threat to their communities because some private schools have higher vaccine exemption rates.

Take pediatrician and California Assemblyman, Dr. Richard Pan, for example. He is angry that many parents and health care professionals opposed AB2109, a bill he authored and pushed through the California legislature this year. 1 Dr. Pan misled his colleagues into believing that that forcing parents to pay for a doctor’s appointment to beg a hostile pediatrician 2 or medical worker to sign a personal belief exemption form is all about education.

Educated, Articulate Parents Defending Parental Rights

Medical trade associations that helped Dr. Pan lobby the state legislature included the California Medical Association, Health Officers Association of California, California Immunization Coalition and the American Academy of Pediatrics.3 In public hearings this year, educated, articulate mothers and fathers stood up to these powerful medical groups and defended their parental and informed consent rights.

In a syndicated Associated Press article, Dr. Pan lashed out at families sending their children to private schools and accused them of becoming too educated about vaccination. Dr. Pan said: “In private schools, these are people who have money, who are upper middle class, and they are going on the internet and seeing information and misinformation.” 4

Vaccine Information & Vaccine Exemptions Should Be Free

Dr. Pan is correct about parents “going on the internet” to learn, for example, how he refused in his bill to allow local pharmacists to sign a personal belief exemption form because he wanted to force all parents to first pay for a medical office visit. AB2109 clearly discriminates against parents, who cannot afford to pay a doctor to sign the form. 5  Why doesn’t Dr. Pan post information he wants parents to have about vaccination on the Department of Health website so parents can become educated for free? 6

Instead of admitting his bill is more about coercion than education, Dr. Pan attacked parents, who send their children to private schools. It looks like what doctors and medical trade groups really want to do is bully and punish parents, who hold sincere religious and conscientious beliefs about vaccination, no matter how much money they have or where their children attend school.

Doctors Engaging in Class Warfare

The same week that Dr. Pan publicly played the “class” card, he was joined by vaccinologists Dr. Saad Omer and Dr. Neal Halsey, who echoed Dr. Pan’s bigoted accusation in the same news article. Just like Dr. Pan, Drs. Omer and Halsey put the blame for higher personal belief vaccine exemption rates at private schools, such as the Waldorf Schools, on “wealthy” parents.

Dr. Omer has published a series of medical journal articles profiling parents taking non-medical vaccine exemptions and criticizing state laws that allow parents to take exemptions. 7 8 9 10 According to the AP article, Dr. Omer said he “surmised that more private school parents are wealthy and have the time to spread five shots over a series of years and stay home should their child get an illness like chickenpox.” 

Dr. Halsey, who I debated publicly in 1997 about informed consent to vaccination, 11 told the AP reporter that “parents who choose private schools are likely to be more skeptical of state requirements and recommendations.”  With that grossly inaccurate generalization, Dr. Halsey attempted to politically stereotype parents filing vaccine exemptions in order to explain why children attending private schools that respect parental rights and health care choices -,like Waldorf schools - have vaccine exemptions.

When doctors politicize vaccine exemptions in order to engage in class warfare, they are crossing a line that reveals more about who they are than the families they are trying to stereotype and marginalize. Dr. Pan, who has assumed the mantle of lawmaker, and Dr. Omer, who enjoys six federal vaccine research grants funded by the CDC or NIH, 12 and Dr. Halsey, who has funding from SmithKline Beecham and the Gates foundation,13 likely are not struggling to pay the rent or pay for groceries.

Doctors Want Fewer Medical Exemptions, More Power

Drs. Omer and Halsey are now calling for doctors to deny even more children medical exemptions to vaccination because they are unhappy that states with stricter non-medical exemptions have a higher rate of medical exemptions! 14 15 16

So let’s get this straight – what Drs. Pan, Omer, Halsey and medical trade groups really want is for state legislatures to grant doctors police powers to force parents to violate their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs in addition to doctors having the power to deny medical vaccine exemptions to children, many of whom are already vaccine injured.

That is a lot of power. That is power without accountability or liability.

Could it be that doctors with financial ties to medical trade associations, vaccine manufacturers and government health agencies are lobbying so hard to severely restrict or get rid of all vaccine exemptions because, every day, there are more and more Americans, who know somebody who was healthy, got vaccinated and was never healthy again?

 Informed Consent: A Human Right

The human right to informed consent to medical risk taking is a universal ethical principle that should be respected by doctors in every nation, especially in America, where we have a long history of respecting the right to self-determination.17 Doctors refusing to protect children from vaccine injury and death because they do not want their authority questioned 18 should not be given the legal power to force anyone to violate their conscience or religious beliefs.

Parents, who have witnessed their children regress into chronic poor health or die after vaccination, belong to every class and every race, religion, philosophy and political party in America. Today, they are joining hands with parents of healthy children and fighting to protect medical and non-medical exemptions that it looks like doctors will try to gut or completely take away next year in states like Arizona, 19 Connecticut, 20 Maryland, 21 Oregon, 22 23 Colorado, 24 New Jersey 25 and many more. 26

Please sign up to be a user of NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org and volunteer to work in your state to defend the human right to make vaccine choices for yourself and your children.

It’s your health, your family, your choice.

1 Richardson D. CA Bill Restricting Personal Belief Vaccine Exemption Heats Up. NVIC Vaccine E-News July 2, 2012.
2 Wang S. More Doctors ‘Fire’ Vaccine Refusers. Wall Street Journal Feb. 16, 2012.
3 California Immunization Coalition. Director’s Update: AB 2109 Moves on to Senate. May 30, 2012.
4 Dreier H. Private School Vaccine Opt-Outs Rise. Associated Press/USA Today Sept. 9, 2012.
5 Richardson D. NVIC Statement Opposing AB 2109. June 20, 2012.
10 Omer SB, Salmon DA, Orenstein WA, deHart PM, Halsey N. Vaccine Refusal, Mandatory Immunization and the Risks of Vaccine Preventable Diseases. N Engl J Med 2009; 360(19): 1981-1988.
12 Saad Omer, PhD, MPH, MBBS. Grants.
13 Johns Hopkins Advanced Studies in Medicine. American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference Satellite Symposium Oct. 17-22, 2011. Activity Faculty: Neal A. Halsey, M.D.
14 Moyer CS. Medical Vaccine Exemptions for Children Not Always Justified. American Medical News Sept. 10, 2012.
16 Salmon DA, Halsey NA. Keeping the M in Medical Exemptions: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children. J Infect Dis Aug. 29, 2012 (published online).
18 NVIC. Vaccine Freedom Wall. Public reports of threats, coercion and sanctions for making informed choices about use of one or more vaccines
19 Fehr-Snyder K. Immunization Exemption Rates on Rise Among Arizona Schoolchildren. The Republic Sept. 12, 2012.
20 Cuda A. Vaccine Exemptions on Rise in State. Connecticut Post Sept. 3, 2012.
21 Asaithambi R. Time to get tough on vaccine refusal. Baltimore Sun April 11, 2012.
23 Anderson J. Religious Exemptions Tilt Immunization’s Balance. Portland Tribune. Feb. 16, 2012.
24 Stobbe M. Colorado Second in Vaccine Refusals. Associated Press Nov. 28. 0211.
26 IDSA. Increase of Religious Exemption to Immunization Requirements in New York State. IDSA Conference Poster Presentation Oct. 20, 212.

Posted: 9/14/2012 1:57:11 AM | with 16 comments


Make a Difference Support NVIC

Help educate families about preventing vaccine reactions by making a donation to NVIC today