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S199 Defeated in Vermont Preserving Healthcare Choice Rights

Your_rightsBy John Gilmore

Advocates for vaccine choice rights delivered a humiliating defeat to the vaccine industry in Vermont this week with the defeat of S 199, a bill that would have eliminated the right of Vermont parents to refuse mandatory vaccines to attend school for “philosophical” reasons.  A coalition of citizens and health rights organizations stopped the very well funded effort by the vaccine industry in the first full-scale attempt to repeal a state’s philosophical exemption law. And this victory is bound to resonate in the statehouses were similar efforts are under way.  

S 199 was introduced by State Senator Bill Mullin, the Vermont Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Chairperson for Vermont. ALEC is lobbying organization that attempts to pass legislation in the states that reflect the interest of the large corporations that fund it , which includes all the giant drug and vaccine companies. In the Vermont House of Representatives the bill was introduced by George Till, MD, an OBGYN. Dr. Harry Chen, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health Services, pushed hard for the bill claiming that vaccination rates for young children were declining. Chen continued to make this claim throughout the debate even though the Center of Disease Control claims that vaccination rates for the DTP, MMR and Polio vaccines are at their highest levels ever recorded in Vermont and have gone up in children aged 3 ever year for the past three years. Chen’s argument features an odd logic: if people exercise their rights then that right must be taken away.

The bill was quickly passed by the Vermont Senate and then went to the House, by the time it got to the House parents throughout Vermont organized and fought back hard. First the bill failed to pass the House Health Committee, and then a modified bill was soundly defeated on the House. Floor.  A bill still called S199 emerged from the legislature, but it left the philosophical exemption intact. Parents will now have to submit letters on any annual basis and must sign a statement that inaccurately states that they acknowledge not vaccinating puts others at risk, but these provisions are face saving bones thrown to assuage what amounts to a complete drubbing by the opponents S 199.  

This is an important defeat in the nationwide effort the vaccine industry has launched to reduce parental control over vaccine decisions for their children.  Last year California passed a bill, AB 499, that allows children to get vaccines and medical treatment for any of a long list of disease that must be reported to the California Health Department, including anthrax, all sexually-transmitted diseases, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, Hepatitis A, B and C and many others.

Washington State, home of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, passed a bill that requires parents there to have a physician sign a form and give them a lecture before they can exercise their right to refuse.  California has a similar bill, AB 2109, currently moving through the legislature. Hopefully, people in California and other states will follow Vermont’s lead. Senator Mullin the sponsor of the Vermont bill said, “I never thought this would turn into the mess it turned into.” And house sponsor Till gave credit for defeating the bill to involved citizens  “They were here every single day in people’s faces,” Till said. “It was hard for a lot of members to remember that they were hearing from a very small but vocal group.” (Hallenbeck, 2004)

The bill sponsors may regret their efforts, 2012 is an election year in Vermont and activists on S199 have said they will be continuing the job by assuring that Mullin and Till are not returned to office.

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Hallenbeck, Terri,  Legislature votes to preserve vaccination exemption, Burlington Free Press, May 4, 2004,



Do not allow corrupted politicians,free lunch doctors and
manipulated,over-paid study writer "experts" dictatate what vaccine your child need.
GREAT job from the parents and concerned citizens.They need to to get rid of those lobby-ists,they
do much damage as they influence the politicians.Stay strong
and lets keep fighting for what is right for our children.


How does not being vaccinated put others at risk, if the others are vaccinated?

John from CA

Great job Vermonters!!!



Here is a link to a summary of California Bill AB499, now chaptered into law:

It reads, in part:

SUMMARY: Permits a minor who is 12 years of age or older to consent to medical care related to the prevention of a sexually transmitted disease. Makes a technical, conforming change to existing law.

EXISTING LAW Permits a minor who is 12 years of age or older and who may have come into contact with an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease to consent to medical care related to the diagnosis or treatment of the disease, if the disease or condition is one that is required by law or regulation adopted pursuant to law to be reported to the local health officer, or is a related sexually transmitted disease (STD), as may be determined by the State Director of
Health Services (now the State Public Health Officer."

What this new law does, from what I understand, is provide further counseling for communicable disease to minors in the State of California, and enables said minor to accept receipt of any and all STD vaccines currently in use. What this new law does NOT do, is allow said minors the ability to receive ANY AND ALL vaccines (other than STD vaccines), which are in use (although I'm sure they'll try to pass similar legislation, opening the doors to that, eventually).

I've spoken with a member of our school board here in Contra Costa County (San Ramon Unified). Our district has absolutely no plans to set up health clinics within which to provide minors with STD vaccines (including the Gardasil vaccine). However, it is quite possible that some of the lower income areas throughout the state, will (and already have) provide health care clinncs in school setting at which point those students may be asked if they want to receive any of the STD vaccines, depending on availability.


Congratulations, Vermonters! Inspiration for when the inevitable comes to our own states. Perhaps some of the citizen activists who made this happen would like to summarize their efforts.

John Gilmore

To answer Jennifer's question the California bill covers any treatment or preventive measure, including vaccines, for any of any very long list of diseases that much be reported to the California Department of Health, that includes all STDs and just about any infectious disease. The great limit on this issue is how will children pay for these services? The overwhelming majority can't. However, California is opening many school-based clinics, and the public sector has a great affinity for paying for vaccines, so this will need to be watched.



The statement given in that article re: AB499, was incorrect. AB499 ONLY refers to STD vaccines.


"Last year California passed a bill, AB 499, that allows children to get vaccines and medical treatment for any of a long list of disease that must be reported to the California Health Department, including anthrax, all sexually-transmitted diseases, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, Hepatitis A, B and C and many others."

I thought the CA law only applied to vaccines for STDs. Does it include MMR and TDaP? And anthrax?? I didn't think this was even on the childhood schedule. Please clarify.


Are the California bills written by Alec? If so, shouldn't that get some advertisement?

Fire Tom Insel Now.

A great victory and a model for the entire country.

So true: Ignore your rights and they'll go away.

Deborah Kahn

The organization in Vermont, now incorporated, is the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

our facebook page is

We see a long battle ahead in VT. The forces wanting to remove and toughen exemptions have not given up.

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