By Ginger Taylor
Last Wednesday, April 15th, all eyes concerned with vaccine choice rights were on the hearings in the California Legislature as they heard debate on a bill to remove the philosophical vaccine exemption in that state. The parents opposing the bill were winning the debate, and because the vote would have likely resulted in the death of the bill, the chair pushed the vote back one week to this coming Wednesday, so that the bill's sponsors would have more time to convince the committee members to vote for the bill.
In stark contrast, last Wednesday, April 15th few eyes concerned with vaccine choice rights were on the hearings in the Vermont Legislature as they heard debate on a bill to remove the philosophical vaccine exemption in that state. The parents opposing the bill were winning the debate, and because the vote would have likely resulted in the death of the bill, the chair pushed the vote back one week to this coming Wednesday, so that the bill's sponsors would have more time to convince the committee members to vote for the bill.
Those few of us who were paying attention to both states last Wednesday were stunned to watch the same thing happen on both coasts simultaneously.
While families are angry at the games being played in California to get Senator Pan's bill passed, which have now extended to changing the members on the committee hearing the bill before the vote is taken, such underhanded moves pale in comparison to the dirty tricks being played in Vermont.
The Vermont bill was introduced in February and was not well received as it was merely a repeat of a bill that had been killed in 2012. Vermont parents had won that hard-fought attempt by the AAP and health department to pass the measure, because there had been fair and open debate despite the fact that the committee testimony had been stacked 3-1 in favor of the bill. It had been a contentious fight in 2012 and legislators (especially in the house) were not interested in having to deal with concerned parents again, so the bill had been tabled in March.
But on Friday, April 10th, Jennifer Stella, head of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice learned that Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, and Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, had tried to tack the exemption removal language onto another bill. The move was ruled to be non-germane and was disallowed.
The following Tuesday evening Stella learned that another attempt was coming, this time to tack the bill onto a vaccination registry expansion bill that had already passed the house, and would be debated the following morning. By the time the bill (H98) hit the senate floor on Wednesday, a barrage of phone calls had been made to concerned parents, who showed up in the Senate Chamber ready to fight the measure. The bill surfaced as amendment introduced, again by Senators Mullin and Campbell, and this time joined by Senator Sears, D-Windsor.
Vaccine choice advocates appeared to be winning the debate as to whether the amendment should be accepted as a matter of process, and with sincere questions from Senators as to constitutional rights, corruption at CDC, whether any new testimony had been taken. Stella reported that, “Many of them seemed genuinely embarrassed by this level of dirty politics. But, just as it appeared that the amendment was going to be defeated, so Campbell ,called for a brief recess, wherein mayhem on the floor ensued.”
After their strategy session, Senator Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, moved to commit the bill/amendment to Senate Health and Welfare, and Senator Sears called for the bill/amendment to be brought back to the floor on Wednesday, April 22nd. The bill sponsors therefore decided, just like California, that they would set the matter aside and take it up again in another hearing this Wednesday.
Their plan for how it would be taken back up is the most brazenly corrupt process that we have seen in trying to pass vaccine law since Dick Army quietly and anonymously attached the Eli Lily Rider to the original Homeland Security bill after it had passed the House.
Health and Welfare Committee Chair, Senator Ayer, who is also a Registered Nurse, has announced that parents, whose rights are being threatened, will not be allowed to testify at the hearing. She has announced that the Ms. Stella, the head of the parental opposition to the bill who holds a BS in Microbiology, will not be allowed to testify. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, will not be able to testify, even though there was no plan of Kennedy visiting Vermont in the first placde. The only people who will be allowed to testify at these hearings will be “experts” with an MD, PhD or greater. Each side will only be given one hour to testify (including questions from the Senators), and they will only be allowed to discuss “new science” published since 2012, because “policy must be based on science.”
Testifying in support of the bill will be Dr. William Raszka, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Vermont Medical Center; Dr. Valerie Rooney, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician, Brattleboro - via Phone; Dr. Wendy Davis, MD, FAAP, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP), Dr. John Modlin, MD, Pediatrician, Geisel School of Medicine, Deputy for Polio- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - via Phone; Dr. Rebecca Bell, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Critical Care Physician, University of Vermont Medical Center.
Following the two hour hearing and a lunch break, debate will immediately commence on the bill on the floor of the Senate and a vote will be taken, before anyone has a chance to review the testimony given in committee, and by Wednesday night the measure may have been passed.
This blatant disrespect for the political process has upset members of the Vermont Legislature, even legislators who actually support the measure. Both Sen. Richard McCormack, D-Windsor, and Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, who are proponents of the bill, have publicly stated that they will be voting against it because they are upset at the process by which this bill is being rammed through.
“I voted for this in the past, but I won’t vote for it today,” Cummings said. “The people have a right to be heard, not two years ago or three years ago, but today.”
So the question is, how does a bill that the Vermont public doesn't want, and the Vermont legislature doesn't want, go from being crumpled up in the corner of a hearing room to the Governor's desk in a week with out any legitimate debate or examination?
“The legislature is crawling with lobbyists from the AAP, Vermont Medical Society, Merck, Pfizer and even PhRMA,” reports Stella. “We have never seen anything like this.”
So tomorrow, keep one eye on California and one eye on Vermont. God only knows what shenanigans will happen next.
Senate takes up the debate. Senator David Zimmerman propose an amendment to the amendment to test children for genetic vulnerabilities to vaccine injury before the philosophical exemption removal. It was rejected by the Senate.
The Zuckerman amendment was rejected.
When the head of the Senate Education Committee asked the sponsor of the bill how these children would be given a public education, his was response was that they could be home schooled, one Health and Welfare Committee member responded that the state of Vermont didn't actually have to educate these kids, and Senator Ayre responded that the matter would be resolved in the court system.
So in short, if you don't want the Hepatitis B vaccine, you can home school because we don't have to give you an education, and if you don't like that you can sue us. Keep in mind that these were all democrats making these statements, who are supposed to stronly support public education and the protection of minority rights. The world is upside down.
The amendment to remove the philosophical exemption was added to the bill, and the Vermont Senate voted 18 to 11 to pass the bill.
The AP report on the matter: http://digital.vpr.net/post/senate-votes-remove-philosophical-vaccine-exemption
Ginger Taylor holds an MS in Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University, is the director of the Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice, is a co-founder of the Canary Party, and serves on the leadership of Health Choice. She has a 13 year old son who regressed into autism following his 18 month vaccines. She recently authored legislation under consideration in Maine to create a state vaccine safety program.