ELLSWORTH — Question 1 will be up for a vote March 3, the day of the Democratic presidential primary. But all Maine voters, regardless of party affiliation, have this sole opportunity to vote on the statewide referendum question.

As written, the question is confusing. It asks, “Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?”

Maine law allows citizens to vote for or against a people’s veto of Maine laws. In this case, the law we are being asked to veto or uphold is a law that mandates all required vaccines in order to attend any Maine school (public or private), work in nursery schools or work in health care.

At first glance, it makes sense. After all, as a doctor I was required to get a number of vaccines. Until I became involved with federal policy on anthrax vaccine, I didn’t know that vaccines could cause serious harm as well as benefit.

Later still, I learned that over 200 vaccines are currently in development. In 2016, Congress approved the 21st Century Cures Act, which directs the Food and Drug Administration to simplify and accelerate the licensing of vaccines, potentially without clinical trials. It further directed the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask its advisory committee, immediately after a vaccine is licensed, whether it could be added to the childhood vaccine schedule.

Most people aren’t aware that once a vaccine is added to the childhood schedule, the manufacturer is no longer subject to liability for injuries caused by a vaccine that was improperly designed. Instead, an excise tax of 75 cents per vaccine dose is placed in a fund managed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to compensate families for design-related vaccine injuries, through a special federal vaccine court.

Getting your vaccine on the childhood schedule is very lucrative for manufacturers.

Having strict state mandates in place before newly required vaccines are placed on the childhood schedule is a great business plan. Families won’t be able to choose which vaccines make sense for their children, because refusing even one required vaccine will cause their child to be expelled from school. Similarly, a nurse or doctor (who may know better which vaccines make sense) who refuses a required vaccine will lose their job.

In California, according to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 5,000 more 5-year-olds were home-schooled in 2018-2019 than in 2015-2016, the last school year before the state’s vaccine mandate went into effect. In the meantime, school budgets have been cut. Teachers’ jobs have been cut. More teenagers have left school without a high school diploma. Is this what we want for Maine?

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