March 14, 2001
To: AAPS Members and Supporters in Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Health has a new initiative called the “Immunizations Now” Initiative: based on the premise that the department shouldn't have to wait for legislators, or a special session to mandate new immunization requirements.
Legislation to implement this, proposed by the only physician member of the Minnesota legislature, has some vaccine and health policy groups concerned. “Unfortunately, task forces and state agencies are not elected and therefore not directly accountable to the citizens the Minnesota,” testified Twila Brase, R.N., president of Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC), a health care policy organization.
Legislation is supported by Harry Hull, the state epidemiologist, who expressed frustration with having to come to the state legislature for vaccine approvals every year. The process is “not efficient,” said Dr. Scott Giebink, M.D., chairman of the Health Department's current Immunization Practices Task Force. Minnesota is one of only 10 states to require legislative approval for vaccine schedules.
Proponents of the bill reiterated to members of the House Health and Human Services policy committee that the legislation would continue to allow Minnesota parents the right of conscientious objection to vaccinations. Minnesota is one of only 16 states to allow conscientious objector to “opt out” of immunizing their children.
That's what Mary Thereau didn't know when she vaccinated her “normal healthy girl” at 4 months of age. Her now 20-year-old daughter, vaccine-injured and wheelchair-bound, accompanied her to today's committee hearing. Testifying in opposition to the bill, Thereau said, “In 1980, nobody said to me that I had a choice.”
The task force and commissioner decisions would be based on the recommendations of three national committees: the U.S. Public Health Services' Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The highly influential ACIP is permeated with financial conflicts of interest. This committee recommended that the rotavirus vaccine be given to premature infants even though they acknowledged that there had been no testing of the vaccine for that group and they had no scientific data to back up the recommendation. Notably, the Rotavirus vaccine was halted only four months after their recommendation due to reports of life-threatening intussusception in 20 children after vaccination.
“As history demonstrates, vaccines can place the public's health at risk. We urge caution in any plan that would lessen public accountability for and legislative scrutiny over decisions on state-mandated vaccinations,” concluded Brase.
Implementation of the Initiative would be through H.F. 886, found at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis.htm (enter hf886 under House bill search). The bill has a Senate companion, Senate File 852, author Senator Sheila Kiscaden (R- Rochester), which can be located by entering sf852 at the same site, but in the Senate bill search.
The Senate bill is not yet been heard and the House bill has not yet made it out of committee. The Vice Chairman of the HHS policy committee and other committee members expressed concerns similar to ours.
Additional testimony from opponents is scheduled to be taken next Monday night, March 19, 2001. A list of Committee members is attached. You may want to let them know your views.
Please feel free to call if you need further information.
Jane M. Orient, M.D.
HOUSE Committee member contacts for the House Health and Human Services Committee can be found at: http://ww3.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/committeemembers.asp?comm=15
Committee Members and their email addresses are:
SENATE contacts for the Health and Family Security Committee are found at: http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/committee/health/members.htm. Again, there has been no hearing of this bill and none is scheduled. Then again, the Senate is liberal with Democrats in the majority, (Republicans control the house) and Senator Kiscaden is a fairly liberal Republican who has Democrat co-sponsors on the bill.
Other Relevant Links: