Legislature Challenges Vaccine Waiver
May 27, 2017
Thursday morning, MI House Education Reform Committee heard testimony on HB 4425 and HB 4426, tie-barred bills that reverse a 2015 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Vaccine Waiver Rule (pp 6,10) for school children.
Concerned citizens filled Lansing Capitol-area parking ramps and packed the hearing room plus two overflow rooms. Special-needs children added depth and meaning to the scene with their headsets, strollers, and crayons.
“The right is impeded by the Rule.”
Strong objections to the bills came from committee members *Daniela Garcia (R-Holland), Brett Roberts (R-Charlotte), Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor).
“Parents retain the waiver right under the current Rule, correct?” Roberts repeatedly insisted. “Yes or no?”
Unflinching, Sponsor Tom Barrett fired back, “The right is impeded by the Rule.”
Word in Lansing is that the two will also be going head-to-head for a seat in the MI Senate in 2018.
Hearing commenced with panel testimony from Barrett and supporting experts. Their objections centered on the current Rule’s overreach of department authority, and hampering parental religious and free speech rights as stated under existing law by requiring further Waiver procedures to opt out of vaccinations. At particular issue was self-incriminating language on the Waiver Form.
Panelists William Wagner and Erin Mersino of The Great Lakes Justice Center outlined constitutional law and judicial precedent requiring that states use least-restrictive means to secure state interests against individual conscientious objections. Mersino’s clear, masterful explanation of administrative law applied to past and present MI Waivers deserves special attention.
Joel Dorfman of Michigan for Vaccine Choice challenged the need for the Rule with MI statistics, asserting that parents are self-educating and Waiver rates were already rising before the Rule took effect.
Does the MDHHS Rule Protect Anyone?
General laughter erupted back in an overflow room when a committee member cited the need for herd immunity to protect public spaces for the immunocompromised. “Vaccines are no guarantee of immunity!” said some. “And for weeks the vaccinated can carry the live virus that others catch.” Others chimed in, “School is one thing, but what about in public? Both places have severe infectious diseases with no vaccine– MRSA, C. dif. or strep throat.”
*Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), Kathy Crawford (R-Novi), and Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) were non-commital, perhaps seeking a middle road to keep the Rule, but tweaking it to streamline complaints about the waiver process.
Personal experience of Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield) backs her support of the bills. “I was patient zero at the University of Michigan measles out break…. Of the 50 affected, I believe all had been vaccinated.”
Defending the department’s Rule was MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, MD. “We need exclusion capability,” she said. “Exclusion” is the practice of sending home healthy, unvaccinated children for up to 21 days for possible exposure to communicable disease. Oddly enough, current policy leaves that decision to parents of immunocompromised children, but not to parents who choose not to vaccinate.
Supporting the bills, Birgitte McQuisten, public health nurse from Orion, described the high social costs of exclusion during a previous outbreak. Pediatrician Rebecca Huizen, DO, appealed to current science and professional reasons to support reversal of the MDHHS Vaccine Waiver Rule. Saying that parents she has seen are highly educated on the subject, she emphasized that vaccines should not be exempt from the rule of full informed consent. She noted personally extensively researching vaccines including their ingredients and safety because “these topics are barely touched on in medical school.”
Healthcare Freedom in Michigan written testimony “Drain the Swamp” was submitted for the record, and with introduction added here.
*Call to action on this issue. Please act now!