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Bill Would End Hepatitis B Shots For ChildrenBill Would End Hepatitis B Shots For Children
Parents in Favor But Health Department Opposed
Parents would be able to choose whether to being considered on Beacon Hill.
Under current law, the Dept. of Public Health has the power to specify which diseases a child must be protected against before entering school. Hepatitis B is one of the diseases mandated by the DPH.
The bill is in response to alarming reports from around the nation about children who suffered severe reactions and even death shortly after they were vaccinated against hepatitis B, says Debbie Bermudes, Arlington, Executive Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Vaccination Choice.
She testified in favor of the parental choice bill. Medical authorities, however, dismiss such evidence as anecdotal.
Under current law, parents must obtain a religious or medical exemption to allow their children to attend school without the vaccinations. Any parent can refuse to allow the vaccination at birth.
The hepatitis B vaccine is routinely administered to newborns in Massachusetts although the state law does not require it to be given at such an early age.
Two important facts regarding hepatitis B:
Now In Health Committee
The bill was introduced by Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood). The Education Committee heard testimony on H.B.1936 in late March. It was then bumped over to the Committee on Health Care in mid-April.
Bermudes told the committee, "We as parents and as organizers working on behalf of parents want to be able to trust the Department of Public Health. Yet, when we see vaccines such as the hepatitis B vaccine being mandated for a population that is clearly at minimal risk in the absence of any kind of public health emergency, we must pause to question the rationale."
She tells MassNews that the state agency actually instructs people that they are required to have their babies get the shots, although state law (MGL., c.76 s.15) only says vaccinations are required for entry into school.
Current policy is to require hepatitis B vaccinations for children who will attend licensed day care or pre-school and also at entrance into kindergarten and grade 7. This entry requirement will be phased in for all other grades between K-12 by the year 2005. College students will also be phased in during that period.
Judy Converse, Falmouth, testified in favor of the proposed bill. In 1996, her newborn son nearly died from a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine administered by the Falmouth Hospital without her knowledge. The child suffered from a host of symptoms requiring extensive and costly therapy. Her experience mirrors that of thousands of others in the United States. (Search for "Converse" in the MassNews archives or look at the June 1999 print edition.)
Converse also testified in 1999 before a congressional committee investigating the poor safety record of the vaccine. She is a registered dietician with a master's degree in public health.
Converse questioned the need for vaccinating children when most cases of hepatitis B in the United States occur in adults and are transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.
Vaccine Is Greater Risk
She testified that a child in Massachusetts has a greater chance of reacting adversely to this vaccine and suffering lifelong impairment than they have of contracting the virus itself.
"Without imminent risk for contracting this virus, any school system which requires this vaccine for entrance is, in my opinion, acting criminally and putting its students at hazard for outcomes like autism, degenerative neuromuscular diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, deafness and more. All of these have been linked to hepatitis B vaccine injury," testified Converse.
Commissioner Koh testified that the Dept. of Health opposes the bill. "Those not already infected need to be protected before they reach the age at which they are most likely to be exposed." He said, "The vaccine is extremely safe with severe reactions being very rare."
The Centers for Disease Control began recommending universal vaccination of children in 1991. Currently, 43 states have childhood, mandated, hepatitis B vaccination programs in place.
Infant vaccinations were suspended for a short while in 1999 after the vaccine was found to contain mercury, but a new vaccine was rushed onto the market and regular vaccination of infants resumed.
Marketing of the hepatitis B vaccine is a large profit center for drug companies, most of which comes from mandatory vaccination programs for children.