Do you know anyone who’s survived a vaccine-preventable disease, like measles or polio? Have you seen a baby suffocate from pertussis? Even 20 years ago, toddlers were dying from H. flu meningitis. Immunizations save lives.

L.D. 471 aims to reduce vaccine-preventable disease by ensuring parents take part in discussion and education about the benefits and risks of vaccines.

Maine has one of the nation’s highest rates of nonmedical vaccine exemptions. This places all children at risk, because outbreaks of disease predictably follow in places where vaccine rates are too low.

The bill requires the signature of a primary care provider verifying that a parent has received proper counseling before deciding not to give their child immunizations on philosophical grounds.

L.D. 471 doesn’t reduce parental rights: It ensures proper education for parents and increases their power to decide what’s best for their children. Parents decide – this bill doesn’t change that.

This bill also aims to protect every child in our state, through “herd immunity.” We’re seeing outbreaks of measles and pertussis, because of pockets in Maine with low vaccine rates.

Babies too young for certain immunizations and folks with compromised immune systems, like those being treated for cancer, are at risk for these life-threatening but preventable illnesses.

Immunizations are sometimes avoided because of misinformation. Some parents, for example, believe that vaccines can cause autism, despite the scientific evidence against it.

That myth grew out of a 1998 paper published in the Lancet by an unethical person named Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism. He made up his data and was later discredited, but the misbelief lives on.

Improving vaccination rates is important for optimal health and wealth in Maine. This can be facilitated by legislation that ensures parents who philosophically object to vaccines receive expert advice from our state’s educated and nonpartisan primary care providers.

Sandra L. Fritsch, M.D.

president, Maine Council of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

Falmouth

Janice L. Pelletier, M.D., FAAP

president, Maine Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Orono