“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infections and dangerous diseases,” the governor said. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Those were strong words. Too bad it wasn’t our governor who said them. Instead, it was California Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed a bill that will bar unvaccinated children from coming to school unless there is a medical reason for their not having been immunized.

A much weaker bill in Maine – which would have allowed parents to opt out for “philosophical” reasons only if they consulted with a physician – was vetoed by Gov. LePage.

The governor and the Legislature missed an opportunity to strengthen the best way science has to protect children from life-threatening diseases. Instead, Maine will keep its place as one of the states with the most lax protections and highest rates of unvaccinated children.

In an unusually wishy-washy veto statement, LePage said parents should have their children immunized, but that parents should also have the choice not to do so.

If children should be vaccinated because vaccines save lives, then why should it be a matter of choice? What about seat belts or flotation devices? Should those be a matter of choice, too? The governor is not saying.


This year, Vermont passed a law getting rid of its philosophical exemption for those who want to opt out of vaccination. That state’s governor was less nuanced than ours.

“Vaccines work, and parents should get their kids vaccinated,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said. There was no “but” to that statement.

Because the veto of the Maine bill failed to get a two-thirds vote to override in the House last Tuesday, the bill will be put on the shelf until 2017. Hopefully, the cost of waiting won’t be too great.

Maine will remain one of the minority of states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children without a medical or religious reason. The “philosophical” exemption comes not from philosophy – the study of ideas – but from a deep distrust of government and official sources of information.

The overwhelming body of scientific research, such as the studies that debunked the alleged link between vaccines and autism, is rejected by the opponents, because they deem it to be propaganda created by the pharma- cuetical industry.

Outlier studies and anecdotal observations that support the anti-vaccine argument are elevated to the status of scientific fact.


The positions won’t be reconciled with more information. This is an argument that neither side will win on points.

Maine officials should do what California’s did – look at the overwhelming body of evidence and make the vaccination of healthy children a requirement of public school enrollment, knowing that a disease outbreak poses more danger to the community than the rare adverse effects that can result from vaccination, as with any medical intervention.

Until Maine does that, children who can’t be vaccinated will be at the mercy of children whose parents choose not to believe a significant body of the evidence. It hardly seems fair to say that the children with suppressed immunity systems should have to stay home.

It would be much more reasonable to say that the family of a healthy child that chooses not to vaccinate should also choose not to go to a public school.

Gov. LePage has a long list of errors in judgment to his credit this legislative session, but over time, not allowing this bill to become law may prove to be the most costly.

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