Immunization sanity

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), having children immunized is one of the most cost-effective preventative medicine programs, helping eliminate needless suffering – and even death – from measles, mumps, whooping cough and other communicable diseases.

Despite all the reputable science illustrating the benefits of immunization, Maine’s childhood immunization rate has dipped below 76 percent.

DHHS says that in 2014, more than 800 citizens obtained exemptions from immunization requirements. A total of 56 exemptions were for valid medical reasons. Another 30 were exempted on religious grounds.

A total of 766 were given exemptions on philosophical objections, which basically allow anyone to say “no” for any reason. A good number of those exemptions undoubtedly resulted from the pseudoscience being spread by the anti-vaccination movement.

A bill currently before the Maine Legislature would remove philosophical objections from the list of valid reasons for refusing to have a child vaccinated.

LD 606, introduced by Rep. Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick) and several other Democratic legislators, is an attempt to help insure that the general health of all Mainers is protected to the maximum extent possible.

Another bill, LD 471, with support from both sides of the aisle, seeks to tighten up philosophical exemptions by requiring that parents wishing to avoid immunizing their children present a letter from a healthcare practitioner confirming that they are aware of the risks. It is sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham). Among its co-sponsors is Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor). That bill undoubtedly would help increase immunization rates but still leaves a large number of children and adults at risk of being infected.

Nobody is suggesting that children or adults should be forced to be immunized.

But the Maine Legislature needs to do all it can educate parents and the public in general to the very real advantages of vaccinations and immunization shots. Public health and safety should not be sacrificed through lack of knowledge about the consequences.

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