Having worked as a pediatrician in central Maine for over 35 years, I have seen improvements in lab tests, imaging and medications; all have helped to advance patient care. In my pediatric practice, however, the greatest benefits have resulted from new vaccines that eliminated some deadly diseases.

I’m not referring to measles; it was controlled in the late 1960s, a decade before I began my medical training, after a researcher at Merck figured out how to create a weakened virus that provided protection. Before that, virtually everyone got measles, and one out of every thousand was left with brain damage from encephalitis. When everyone gets a disease, 1/1,000 adds up to a lot of children with now-preventable disabilities. I don’t want those days to return.

What’s made the biggest difference in my decades of practice is a vaccine that worked against a germ called Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (HIB). This infection could cause meningitis, as well as life-threatening airway blockages. HIB was quite common, and we considered it in every child with a fever, leading to many hospitalizations. After the HIB vaccine was licensed around 1990, HIB disease suddenly vanished. I wish I knew which drug company to thank for this one.

I am not trying to justify the policies of “Big Pharma” — drug pricing and profits are out of control. I’m sure they make some money from vaccines — that’s due to how we have organized the American health care system.

Proponents of Question 1, which would repeal a new law that eliminates religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions for students and some workers, are trying to capitalize on public frustration with large corporations. But a “yes” vote on Question 1 is really a vote against child health. If you want to vote against “Big Pharma” you will likely have a chance next fall. For now, please vote no on Question 1.


Sydney Sewall, M.D.


(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this letter incorrectly stated which exemptions the law would eliminate. It has been corrected. It was an editing error.)

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