At Vax Maine Kids, we’re grateful that the majority of Maine parents fully immunize their children according to the recommended vaccination schedule. But it’s hard not to worry about children whose parents delay or refuse vaccines. While these parents may believe they’re making decisions in their child’s best interest, they are usually based on misinformation or a misunderstanding of the science, safety, and regulation of vaccines.
That is why we need your help! During this legislative session, elected representatives from Maine will be voting on important immunization bills that can help keep Maine children free from vaccine preventable diseases.
We know that parents who are against some or all vaccines will come to the State House in large numbers to share their stories. They will rely on emotional, yet anecdotal stories to trump decades of science and research and will do their best to convince legislators not to put policies in place o educate parents about vaccines and protect children from dangerous diseases. We can’t let that happen, so we’re calling on the silent majority of Maine parents who immunize their children to have their pro-vaccine voices heard. Call, email, or write your legislator today to support vaccine laws based in science. Do it for your family, your children, and your community.
Our mission at Vax Maine Kids is to share evidence-based vaccine information and resources with Maine parents. Part of that mission also involves promoting policies and programs that have been show to help increase children’s immunization rates. All states require children to have received certain immunizations before starting school because it is a strategy that ensures communities reach levels of immunity that can protect everyone from diseases. Under current Maine law, all children enrolled in licensed child care facilities and schools (public and private) must be immunized against several vaccine-preventable diseases including: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella (chickenpox), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, (with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Hib, Rotavirus and Pneumococcal also required for daycare).
Currently, parents can elect to not vaccine their children against these diseases for medical, religious or personal belief reasons. Just a simple signature from a parent is all it takes to avoid immunization requirements – making it easier and more convenient to opt-out of vaccinations than to follow the law.
Maine is one of only 19 states that allow for personal belief exemptions and they made up more than 95% of all exemptions among Kindergarteners in the 2013-2014 school year.
- Maine has the 5th highest rate of school immunization exemptions in the U.S., with 5.5% of Kindergarteners exempted in the 2013-14 school year (compared to 4.3% in the 2012-13 school year and 3.9% in the 2011-12 school year).
- In 2013, Maine ranked 7th lowest in the country for immunizing children aged 19-35 months, with an estimated 68% up-to-date on their immunizations, a decrease from 72.6% in 2012.
- Currently, Maine is one of only 5 states that does not have a Tdap requirement and one of 26 states that does not have a meningococcal requirement in order to attend middle and high school.
- In 2013, Maine had the 14th lowest rate of Tdap coverage in the country, with only 83% of 13-17 year olds vaccinated. Also, only 71% of 13-17 year olds vaccinated with one or more doses of meningococcal vaccine.
Now, consider the immunization related bills set to be reviewed and voted on during the current legislative session in Maine. On May 11th, the Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the following four bills that Vax Maine Kids thinks are most important to be aware of and take action on with legislators.
- LD 471, An Act To Improve Childhood Vaccination Rates in Maine is sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanborn. It would require parents provide documentation indicating they have met with a healthcare provider and had a conversation about vaccine risks and benefits before moving forward with philosophical exemptions to school required vaccines. http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=28005483
- LD 473, Resolve, Directing the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services To Jointly Adopt Rules To Protect Children’s Health is sponsored by Rep. Patty Hymanson. This bill will direct the Department of Education and the Department of Human Health and Services to add Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) & meningococcal vaccines to school requirements for pre-teens and teens http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280054838
- LD 606, An Act To Remove the Philosophical Exemption from the Immunization Requirements for School Students and Employees of Nursery Schools and Health Care Facilities is sponsored by Rep. Ralph Tucker. This bill would eliminate philosophical exemptions for students or employees of nursery schools and health care facilities, but preserve religious and medical exemptions. http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280055087
To be clear, LDs 471, 473, and 606 are all pro-vaccine bills that are supported by evidence and historical data to increase childhood immunization rates and better protect school-aged children and teens.
- LD 1076, An Act To Enact the Vaccine Consumer Protection Program is sponsored by Rep. Beth O’Connor. This bill would establish an office to educate health care providers and patients about vaccine injuries. http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280055747
Vax Maine Kids believes LD 1076 would cause unnecessary duplication and oversight since there are already several federal agencies, medical institutions, research facilities, and licensing and review boards dedicated to vaccine injury issues . This bill would require funding dollars that Maine just doesn’t have. It would also make it more challenging for medical practices to provide complete well-child care as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Family Medicine in ever-shortening appointment times.
With all of this vaccine legislation in play right now, we’re calling upon Maine parents more than ever to voice their concerns about vaccine preventable diseases to other parents, community groups, legislators and the media.
Here are some very specific ways to send a strong message to your legislators and members of the Health and Human Services Committee during this time when they’re considering immunization legislation:
- Attend the hearings on May 11th and prepare testimony that you can deliver to the Health and Human Services Committee in person. This will demonstrate that you’re truly passionate and committed to this issue. There will likely be parents speaking in opposition to these bills, so we need your support. If you’re willing to testify, simply email us at email@example.com and we’ll assist you in drafting testimony and arranging for travel stipends. If you would simply like us to keep you informed of the hearing time and location, let us know via this email as well.
- Provide written testimony. If you are unable to testify in person, providing written testimony is the next best thing – let us know if you would be willing to prepare written testimony and we can help make sure it gets to the right place to be read on the correct day!
- Contact your local legislators as well as all the members of the Health and Human Services Committee. Tell them you’re in favor of LD 471, 473, and 606 and that you’re opposed to LD 1076. Calls or emails work well. If you would like us to email you a sample letter let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you choose to call and do not hear back within 48 hours, we would suggest following up with an email. If you are unsure who your legislators are, go to https://www1.maine.gov/legis/house/townlist.htm to search for your Representatives and Senators.
The Chairs of the Health and Human Services Committees are:
- Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin; email@example.com), representing Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland
- Representative Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook; Drew.Gattine@legislature.maine.gov)
Other members of the Health and Human Services Committee are as follows:
If we want to protect our families from vaccine-preventable diseases, we need to be willing to make our voices heard when it comes to enacting strong, science-based immunization policies in Maine. We can’t thank you enough for joining us and taking action to help Maine increase its childhood immunization rates and keep us all healthy!