AUGUSTA — Parents who question the safety of vaccines are battling with Maine’s medical establishment about two bills that could have the effect of lowering vaccination rates.

One bill, L.D. 694, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, would require doctors to give parents a list of all the ingredients in childhood vaccines. The second would make it easier for children to stay in school without being immunized.

The bill’s supporters say parents deserve to know exactly what is being injected into their children’s bodies, and that people should have the right to reject all vaccinations for themselves and their children.

Opponents, who include several doctors and nurses and the Maine Medical Association, say vaccines are safe and have proved to be enormously successful in virtually eliminating several deadly and devastating diseases, such as polio and whooping cough. However, they warn the vaccines aren’t effective for society unless there are high vaccination rates, and they are alarmed by the declining vaccination rate in Maine over the past decade, from 90 percent to less than 80 percent.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday held public hearings on the bills, L.D. 694 and L.D. 941. The testimony was at times emotional.

Ginger Taylor, a Brunswick mother of boy with autism, said her son began showing symptoms after he received a DTaP vaccine at age 18 months.

“I am here to fight for our right to say ‘no,'” said Taylor, who is an anti-vaccine activist.

Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, who works as a pediatric nurse, said that unwarranted fears about vaccinations are dangerous.

“The illnesses that we are talking about vaccinating for kill you,” she told the committee. “This is how you prevent the really bad, scary stuff.”

Currently, federal law requires doctors to provide a fact sheet that includes information about the vaccine, such as risks and potential reactions, but does not list the ingredients.

The bill’s supporters say the public deserves to know the ingredients, which in some cases include aluminum and formaldehyde, which is embalming fluid.

The bill would make it easier for parents to have a conversation with their doctors about the ingredients of vaccines, Rep. Boland said.

Doctors who testified at the hearing said that the use of minuscule amounts of those ingredients is necessary for a vaccine to be stored safely and to be effective. They say that forcing doctors to hand out a list would alarm people unnecessarily and make giving people vaccinations cumbersome.

Jennifer Hayman, a Portland pediatrician, said that the federal Food and Drug Administration spends enormous money and effort to determine the safely of vaccines. Requiring a doctor to inform patients of the ingredients in the vaccine would be like requiring grocery store cashiers to give customers a list of ingredients at the time of purchase, she said.

The second bill, L.D. 941, is complicated. It aims to prohibit mandatory immunizations. However, immunizations are currently not mandatory, although a governor under emergency powers could mandate vaccinations, such as during a biological terrorism attack.

The sponsor, Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, said he wants to protect people’s basic personal liberties. Stephen Sears, the acting director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the bill would make it difficult for schools to prevent children who have not been immunized from being enrolled in school, thus exposing other children to much greater health risks.

Tom Bell — 699-6261

[email protected]


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