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Connecticut’s Three Philosophical Exemption Bills and other Legislative Issues

Connecticut’s Three Philosophical Exemption Bills and other Legislative Issues

 

By  Lisa Reiss

 

Philosophical Exemptions Bills

CTVIA is pleased to inform our members that three philosophical vaccination exemption bills have been proposed in the Connecticut Legislature.  The following is a brief review of the bills, which have bi-partisan support.

 

Bill 403-An Act Concerning Exemption From Immunizations Required For School.

This bill was introduced by Sen. William Aniskovich (R-Branford, Killingworth, Durham, Guilford, Madison, North Branford).  This bill amends the statute for schools to include a “personal conviction” vaccination exemption, provides that parents receive information on exemptions 30 days prior to vaccination.  Additionally, it requires physicians to provide the vaccine contraindication, potential side effects of the vaccine, vaccine efficacy, and the true risks of the disease.  Additionally, it requires that physicians provide information on the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

 

Bill 5949-An Act Concerning Student Immunizations.  This bill was co-introduced by Rep. Richard Belden (R-Shelton) and Sen. George Gunther (R-Shelton, part of Stratford, Seymour and Monroe).  This bill amends the statute for school entry to include a “personal conviction” vaccination exemption.  It requires that physicians provide vaccine information to parents including information on potential side effects and comparable vaccines from the different manufacturers.  Additionally, it requires that physicians provide information on the VAERS.

 

Bill 6284-An Act Concerning Immunizations.  This bill was introduced by Rep. Christopher Caruso (D-Bridgeport).  It has been co-sponsored by Rep. Linda Orange (D-Colchester and East Haddam).  This bill amends the statute for entry into daycare, school, college and nursing homes to include a “philosophical reasons” vaccination exemption.  It also requires that physicians provide vaccine information including information on potential side effects, comparable vaccines from different manufacturers, provide the vaccine package insert no later than 7 days prior to a vaccine being administered and requires information on VAERS be provided.  If information is not provided to the parent, guardian or individual then the doctor may be fined not less than $500 per violation.  Additionally, it requires that the vaccination exemptions be listed on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Vaccine Information Statements and on the health forms required by daycare, school, college or nursing homes.  Finally, this bill would prohibit the Department of Public Health from revoking a medical exemption once a physician issues it.

 

Public Health Emergency Response Authority Bills

 

As many of you know during the 2002 legislative session Bill 5286 “An Act Concerning Public Health Emergency Response Authority” was addressed.  While CTVIA understood the premise of the bill, that being for Connecticut to be prepared during a Public Health Emergency caused by Bioterrorism, what resulted was far different.  Bill 5286 was to be based upon the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act ( MSEHPA) proposed by the CDC.  When we realized that 5286 would not provide for some of the most basic provisions included in MSEHPA, including a conscientious objector vaccination exemption and quarantine in the least restrictive means necessary (specifically naming the home), we attempted to have amendments added.  For more detailed information on the legislative activities pertaining to this bill please see CTVIA Newsletter, Spring 2002, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 1.

 

CTVIA feels strongly that any Public Health Emergency Bill, which would permit the governor to declare a State of Emergency, should be limited to Bioterrorism and include some basic humane provisions.  Specifically, CTVIA believes that

·       voluntary informed consent should be required before vaccinating

·       quarantine should be humane and limited to the incubation period of the disease plus a couple days

·       medical, religious and conscientious objector vaccination exemptions should be permitted

·       individuals should be permitted to consult with a doctor prior to being vaccinated

 

Sen. Win Smith (R-Milford, Orange and part of West Haven) has introduced the following bills.

 

Bill 243-An Act Concerning Conscientious Objections to Vaccinations.  This bill provides a “conscientious objection” for individuals from any ordered compulsory vaccination.

 

Bill 245-An Act Concerning the Definition of “Public Health Emergency”.  This bill provides that a “public health emergency” be limited to a medically documented occurrence of a communicable disease caused by Bioterrorism.

 

Bill 247-An Act Concerning Time Limits for Quarantine.  This bill limits quarantine to the incubation period of the disease plus 5 days.

 

Bill 248-An Act Concerning Administration of Vaccinations Pursuant to a Public Health Emergency.  This bill provides that voluntary informed consent must be obtained from the individual, parent, or guardian prior to vaccinating.  It defines “voluntary informed consent” to mean that information on the vaccine, including benefits and side-effects, be provided, that an opportunity for questions will be permitted, that the decision will be free of any coercion and the person may withdraw their consent in writing.

 

Sen. Smith, Rep. James Amann (D-Milford) and Rep. Richard Roy (D-Milford) co-introduced the following bills also pertaining to public health emergency response authority.

 

Bill 404-An Act Concerning Vaccinations Pursuant to a Public Health Emergency

This bill provides individuals an opportunity to consult a physician prior to being vaccinated.

Bill 406-An Act Concerning Any Quarantine Imposed Pursuant to any Public Health Emergency.  This bill outlines how quarantine would be imposed.  It contains provisions including that daily needs will be met, family members may stay together, parents may stay with children by signing a waiver, and refusing vaccination due to medical, religious or conscientious objections are not grounds for automatic quarantine, among other items.

 

Bill 412-An Act Concerning Quarantine During a Public Health Emergency.  This bill provides that any quarantine should be the “least restrictive means” necessary and lists confinement to the private home as an option.

 

Bill 6189-An Act Concerning Exemptions from Mandatory Vaccinations.  This bill was co-introduced by Rep. Caruso and Rep. Carl Dickman (R-Fairfield) provides for a “philosophical beliefs” vaccination exemption from any ordered vaccination by the state, agency or municipality.

 

CTVIA understands that the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) will be presenting another Public Health Emergency type bill this session.  At the date of this printing of the newsletter, we do not have any information on the DPH bill.

 

Vaccine Tracking System

 

The DPH currently runs the state vaccine tracking system, Connecticut Immunization Registry Tracking System (CIRTS).  This tracking system keeps track of those children who are vaccinated or who claim an exemption.  Children born now are automatically put into the system unless the parents request that the child not be included (known as an opt-out system).  Prior to 2000 children were included only if the parent requested that they be included (known as an opt-in system).  A parent may request at anytime that their child not continue to be tracked  but the DPH does not get rid of the information, they maintain the information.

 

Bill 6188-An Act Concerning Immunization Records.   This bill introduced by Rep. Caruso, provides that if a parent or guardian requests that their child not be included in CIRTS then the child’s immunization record would be required to be purged from the DPH system.

 

What Can I Do?

 

  1. Make sure that you are on the CTVIA email list.  If you do not have an email address consider getting one free from hotmail.com.  Since the legislative situation is very fluid and fast moving CTVIA does not have the ability to contact via phone each of you.  If you have email but have not received CTVIA email updates please email us your name and email to info@ctvia.org so that you may be added.  Sometimes membership forms do not include an email address.
  2. Tell 10 other friends.  Many of you know friends or family who support informed consent.  This is not an anti- or pro- vaccine issue but rather an issue over our basic right to informed consent.  With regard to the philosophical/conscientious objector vaccine exemptions, if one cannot refuse a single vaccination then no consent has taken place. One must be able to refuse in order for one to be able to accept it, thereby having a true informed consent situation.  With regard to the public health emergency powers bills, everyone wants the basic provisions included in the above bills, particularly considering the controversy surrounding the smallpox vaccine.  Invite your friends or family to join the CTVIA free email list so that they can stay informed as we obtain information.
  3. Thank you.  Contact the Senators or Representatives by email or phone and tell them thank you for introducing the legislation.  Include in your thank you, the reason why this legislation is important to you.  For example, share which vaccine you would choose if you could selectively vaccinate under a philosophical exemption versus not vaccinating under a religious exemption.  If you have been harassed or not been provided vaccine information also share your situation so that they understand why it is so important that we get these bills.  All contact information will be posted at www.CTVIA.org under ‘Pending legislation.’
  4. Contact YOUR STATE Representative/Senator.  Explain to your Representative and Senator why you would like the bills previously described.  Remember to be polite and calm. Try to find out if the person is a Democrat (D) or Republican (R).  Since this is a political arena, often legislators are more responsive to bills presented from members of their own party.  In our experience it is best not to get into a debate as to whether a vaccine works or doesn’t work but rather to explain how you are not being permitted to exercise your right to informed consent because you cannot refuse a single vaccine.  Consider sharing your experiences (1) of vaccine reactions your family has experienced, (2) harassment you have received when you asked questions, (3) lack of vaccine information, (4) of being told you must vaccinate because there are no options, (5) inability to get a medical exemption, (6) congressional hearing you are familiar with, etc.
  5. Prepare written testimony.  Assuming that all the bills are taken up by the Public Health Committee then there would be a public hearing.  Due to the legislative process, we will only get 5 days prior notice that the hearing will occur.  Therefore, please prepare two written testimonies.  One for why you would like a philosophical exemption and the other for why you want the provisions included in the public health emergency powers bill.  While you may need to revise it based on the public health emergency powers bill language presented by DPH, it would be easier to revise on short notice. 
  6. Commit to attend a Public Hearing.  CTVIA is often contacted by individuals who “wish Connecticut had a philosophical exemption.”  The Public Hearing will be your opportunity to express your opinion and concern.  Last year, with Bill 5286 there were only four people who expressed concern over this bill.  It is critical that the legislators hear from YOU!  Please do not count on someone else to attend and speak.  CTVIA can talk until we are blue in the face but the legislators listen much better when a constituent contacts them and makes the extra effort to show up at the capitol to attend and speak at a public hearing.  As mentioned prior, we will only get 5 days notice that a public hearing will occur.  Additionally, all the bills may not come up at the same public hearing.  Again, make sure you are on the CTVIA email list to get up-to-date information.

 

CTVIA has maintained our commitment to keeping you informed on vaccine issues.  As with last legislative session, your support is critical for Connecticut to obtain a philosophical exemption and a humane Public Health Emergency Powers Bill.

 

You may follow the bills, get contact information on your legislator by visiting http://www.cga.state.ct.us