The Vaccine Debate in Vermont


Dr. Allan Phillips, Vaccine Rights Attorney

(A version of this story appeared in The Hardwick Gazette on Feb. 18)

Varying Opinions on Vaccine Date
by Michael Bielawski

HARDWICK – The Northeast Kingdom, like the rest of the world is not off the map when it comes to the vaccine debate. With diseases such as measles popping up around the country including just across the border in New
York, local health care providers are giving their opinions.

Sandy Gebbie, school nurse at Hardwick Elementary thinks that fewer parents are getting their kids shots.

been here for 26 years, and I’m seeing the number of philosophical
exemptions rise every year,” she said. “It’s concerning to me, and I did
not agree with what the Vermont legislature did a few which was to
continue allows philosophical exemptions. I think it puts more kids are
at risk.”

Gebbie went on to say that she does sense parents who
make the decision not to vaccinate are doing so for the most part
carefully with time and research.

Nurse Linda Romans of Hazen Union doesn’t see fewer immunizations.

philosophical exemptions we have are mostly for chicken pox. I would
say more so the younger kids, maybe there are more in the elementary
school,” said Romans.

Hardwick Area Health Center nurse Brooke also weighed in.

the government cares about is by two or three years old that they kids
have a certain set of vaccines. We have very few who refuse altogether,
but some parents are concerned about live (weakened) virus vaccines, but
people with normal immune systems handle it just fine.”

She said the news of measles outbreaks has encouraged parents to vaccinate more.

the measles outbreak, people who have traditionally not been immunizing
have coming to catch up, some are getting vaccines for the first time
ever. We apparently have pretty high rates of people who don’t vaccinate
in Vermont, which I find that hard to believe actually because I don’t
come across a lot of our patients that are flat out against it.”

a bit further away, vaccine rights attorney Alan Phillips based in
North Carolina, is concerned about the prospect of forced vaccinations.
He tried to break down the legal angle.

“The US Supreme Court
looked at whether or not we have a right to decide what to put into our
body as far as vaccines are concerned in 1905,” said Phillips. “There
was a case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts.  During a small pox outbreak, and
there was a law requiring everybody to be vaccinated which was
challenged by a preacher who as a child he said he had a serious
reaction to a small pox vaccine. What the court essentially said was the
state under its police powers has authority to mandate vaccines, and
unless you have a current medical reason.”

A corner stone of the
Nuremberg Code of the Nuremberg trials (the Nazi war crimes trials)
after World War II is the notion of “informed consent” before anything
is forced into someone’s body. Phillips said the code is not legally
binding for the US or other countries, it is only a guideline.

of the ingredients that have parents concerned include thimerosal
(containing mercury), formaldehyde, aluminum, gelatin, polysorbate 80
and more. For example in Fluzone given out at the Hardwick Area Health
Center contains, in its smallest version (older kids and adults get
more) 50 micrograms of formaldehyde and 12.5 micrograms of mercury. In
perspective, according to, in the EPA safety limit for
mercury for children (it doesn’t specify age or body weight), as of 2012
was five micrograms.

Phillips said the National Vaccine Injury
Compensation Program, which is funded by a tax on vaccine purchases, not
the manufacturers, pays out over $100 million per year. He said those
payouts include about three or four deaths per year from the Measles
Mumps Rubella vaccine, the vaccine in the news since the Disney Land
measles outbreak. Phillips thinks the actual number of reactions is

“The multiple sources, people from the CDC, FDA,
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the National Vaccine
Information Center, all have said that the vast majority, 90 to 99
percent of serious adverse effects are never reported.”

Gebbie and Romans were adamant that they understand parents’ concerns,
even if they don’t agree with a decision not to vaccinate.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s