RE: PG County vaccine policy enforcement
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November 18, 2007
The Honorable Martin O’Malley
Dear Gov. O’Malley:
The undersigned organizations and individuals are writing to ask you to use the power of your office to intervene in the intimidation and threatened prosecution of parents in Prince George's County who choose not to immunize their children.
We appeal to you under the umbrella of the “Hands Off Our Kids” Coalition -- a broad, non-partisan coalition of advocacy groups that joined together to overturn the HPV vaccine mandate in Texas earlier this year. This ad hoc coalition includes medical, taxpayer, privacy, civil liberties, health freedom, and good government groups from both sides of the aisle.
While each group has various reasons for concern, our common objection can be summarized as follows: The heavy-handed “vaccine roundup” instigated by PG County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey obliterates informed consent and parental rights.
According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons statement of Patients’ Freedoms adopted in 1990,
This campaign of intimidation to brutally enforce blanket vaccine mandates by government agencies and the school district gives no consideration for the rights of the parents or the individual medical condition of the child. The procedure is reckless and subjects children to the risk of severe reactions. Physicians would not be allowed to treat children in this way, without individual histories and physical exams – or informed consent. Children should be carefully screened, medical records taken and decisions made carefully –
It is not clear that these parents have received or will receive full information about the vaccines for 11 diseases that the state of Maryland requires. But what is clear is that it is very unlikely to take place in an ad hoc assembly-line clinic in a county courtroom and under the brutal watch of law enforcement.
We also have a concern about the exemption process in Maryland that takes an “all-or-nothing” approach, requiring a complete “opt out” on religious grounds. Some parents may have a philosophical objection to certain vaccines, such as the hepatitis B, which is sexually transmitted, while having no objection to immunizing their child for influenza.
Mr. Ivey apparently has no problem invoking his own right to informed consent and parental control. In a radio interview on Thursday, he admitted that he has chosen to refuse the hepatitis B vaccines for his own children. But his actions strongly make our point that not all vaccines are right for all children, and that parents should be making that decision.
Therefore we strongly urge you to take the following actions:
1. Work to immediately suspend the summons issued to PG parents. This will restore confidence in due process by demonstrating that Mr. Ivey has been acting on his own initiative, and that these actions are not representative of the state of Maryland. It will also allow 1,600 parents to make a more deliberative and informed decision about medical treatment for their children.
2. Work with legislature to pass a philosophical exemption for the vaccine mandates. This will allow parents to make better choices about which vaccines are right for their children.
But this episode has demonstrated that we must take a much more deliberative approach in crafting and enforcing vaccine policy without sacrificing the rights and liberties of individuals and families.
These Maryland children should not be herded into a courtroom like cattle. The “Hands Off Our Kids” coalition members urge you to take these steps immediately to restore parental rights, children’s civil liberties, and confidence in Maryland’s elected officials.
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons