February 20, 2001
The Honorable Charles Starr
Dear Senator Starr:
This is to express our support for S.B. 450, which establishes an exemption from immunizations of school children based on philosophical or personal objections of their parents.
AAPS is a national organization of physicians (with a degree of M.D. or D.O.) in all specialties, founded in 1943 to preserve private medicine based on the Oath of Hippocrates. This Oath enjoins physicians to prescribe “for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.”
At our recent annual meeting in St. Louis, our General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution opposing mandatory immunizations. Although the majority of our members do advise their patients to be immunized in most cases, we believe that this counsel should consider the individual circumstances of each patient. We also believe that patients have the right to refuse medical interventions, even those strongly recommended by their physician.
We are also concerned that vaccines, like all medical treatments, can sometimes do harm. The risk:benefit ratio varies-with time, place, and individual patient characteristics-and may actually be unknown. Incredibly, the standard of safety testing for vaccines is not very high. We have been waiting for more than a year for a response to a Freedom of Information Act request for data used in licensing hepatitis b vaccine for newborns. As far as we can tell, the data were never published. Often, vaccine testing is quite limited in scope and duration.
The right of patients and physicians to decline vaccines provides necessary incentives for manufacturers to develop safer vaccines. Without this right, Americans are often subjected to inferior vaccines longer than our foreign counterparts who have the right of refusal.
Information concerning specific vaccines may be found at our web site www.aapsonline.org.
We urge you to hold well-publicized hearings. Witnesses opposed to exemptions should be asked to divulge potential conflicts of interest: grants, honoraria, consulting fees, advertising revenues, etc., from vaccine manufacturers, or, in the case of school districts or government agencies, federal subsidies contingent upon immunization rates.
Please feel free to call if we can be of any assistance.
Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director