Told her children would be barred from school if she didn’t sign required health forms, a mom from Woodstock has agreed to say the state provided “evidence-based” information on vaccines, even though she believes the information lacks scientific backing.
Citizens for Informed Consent sent a petition last Thursday to Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine and Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe requesting a hearing on what they consider a lack of sufficient information provided to parents concerning adverse vaccine reactions.
“[We] believe that informed consent to medical procedures is a fundamental human right,” the petition reads. “In the context of the Vermont Department of Health’s vaccination program, informed consent requires that parents and college students receive truthful and accurate information concerning both the risks and the benefits of the vaccines on Vermont’s mandatory school vaccine schedule.”
In 2015 the Vermont legislature voted to end a parent’s right to use philosophical objections to refuse shots for their children. As a result, parents choosing to pass on a state-required vaccine must either get a medical exemption from a doctor or file a religious exemption.
The Woodstock parent, Naomi Malik, spent two years asking the Department of Health to provide scientific-based evidence to support its claims about vaccine safety. She claims the department information was insufficient. Malik, a chiropractor, has two children attending
“Last year, when she didn’t receive the references, she simply marked up her religious exemption form and just crossed out ‘evidence based’ and signed the form,” Jennifer Stella, president of Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, told True North. “The school nurse reportedly was told by the Health Department that Ms. Malik may not mark up the form in any way — if she does, then her kids will be excluded from school.”
The education material was revised by the Vermont Department of Health in 2015, and the section concerning potential harmful reactions was removed, according to Stella. She reported the issue to the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules in 2016.
According to Sec. 4. 18 §1122 of the Vermont Statutes, educational material must include “information about the risks of adverse reactions.”
Stella says the department revised already existing educational materials and removed information about risks, skirting the statutory requirement.
“It’s supposed to be evidence based,” Stella said. “It should have scientific research to back up the claims that are in that educational material. Many parents have taken issue with this arrangement. A lot of parents, when they sign the form, they either write ‘I do not agree’ and sign under duress, or they just sign under duress.”
Malik this week signed the forms under duress, despite her earlier protests.
In a prior letter to Levine and Holcombe, Malik wrote that “it appears that several statements made by the VT DOH are not supported by the currently available evidence.”
“As the agency entrusted with overseeing the health and well-being of all Vermonters, accuracy and transparency are paramount. … I am currently unable, in good conscience, to sign an exemption form acknowledging that I have read evidence based material. I am more than willing to sign once I am provided with peer reviewed scientific references,” she wrote in the letter.
Stella feels it’s the state’s responsibility to meet the legal requirements for the education material.
“The Health Department really does need to provide scientific foundlings for their policy and the concern here is that they are not backing up any of their claims in the material with any sort of scientific reference,” she said.
According to 3 V.S.A. § 806, the agency has 30 days remedy the information in question or it can issue a denial.
Vaccine package inserts from the manufacturers list vaccine ingredients and known serious side effects. Stella said the problem is many parents and professionals alike are not familiar with the fine-print documents.
“If you take a look, the manufacturers are actually doing their part, they are providing those warnings,” she said. “Those are FDA regulated labels. … What seems to be getting lost in translation is when government agencies are in charge of both safety and promotion of products, there seems to be some difficulties with conveyance of these warnings.”
Package inserts such as this one for Tripedia (for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) admit a number of serious potential reactions including “autism” and “SIDS” (sudden infant death syndrome). It also lists ingredients including thimerosal (a mercury derivative), aluminum, formaldehyde and polysorbate 80.
Such warnings are required according to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, signed by President Ronald Reagan, which provides federal liability protection to vaccine manufacturers, essentially blocking any legal recourse from those harmed by a vaccine. One of the contingencies for this protection was that the public must be properly warned about the dangers before consenting to a vaccine.
In 2010, as a result of concerning studies, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually deemed vaccines “unavoidably unsafe” in a 6-2 decision while continuing to protect pharmaceutical companies from any liability for their damages.
Stella said 55 organizations around the country representing over 5 million people sent a notice about reliable information to acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Eric D. Hargan.
“That notice basically outlined our concerns over the lack of safety testing that has been done by the U.S. Government as part of their requirements inside the 1986 act,” she said.
If this notice does not receive an adequate reaction, then further action will be taken.
“We are prepared to sue if necessary,” Stella said. “And when I say we, I mean the members of the 55 organizations that have co-signed the letter, and our organization is one of them.”