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Hot Topic: Anti-vaccine column sparks debate

In this April 20, 2012, photo, Holly Ann Haley, 4, gets vaccinations at the doctor's office in Berlin, Vt. Vermont continues to be embroiled in a debate over ending the philosophical exemption that allows parents to have their kids skip the immunizations required for most children to attend school. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

In this April 20, 2012, photo, Holly Ann Haley, 4, gets vaccinations at the doctor's office in Berlin, Vt. Vermont continues to be embroiled in a debate over ending the philosophical exemption that allows parents to have their kids skip the immunizations required for most children to attend school. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

The Monitor has received considerable mail in response to an Aug. 13 column by Stephanie Foisy Mills that expressed skepticism about childhood vaccinations. Here’s a sampling:

From chiropractor, a dangerous message

Re “Vaccines raise many questions; parents shouldn’t be bullied” (Monitor Opinion page, Aug. 13):

Stephanie Foisy Mills claims she is in danger of losing her “freedom to make informed medical decisions” – namely her right to refuse vaccinations for her children – thereby knowingly and willfully risking their health and the health of others in our community.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence points to vaccines being both safe and effective for protecting the health of our children from diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis – diseases that commonly sickened thousands and were often (and still are) lethal. These diseases are neither “mild” nor “harmless” – nor do they all confer “lifelong immunity.”

Mills tries to insinuate that the hepatitis B shot is not needed. She is wrong. It has reduced the incidence of hep B among children and adolescents by 89 percent. She claims that the HPV vaccine kills – she is wrong. Not a single death has been attributed to the vaccine. She suggests that we should “respect parents,” and she lists NVIC.org as a “great place to start educating yourself.” Yet the National Vaccine Information Center is a well-known anti-vaccine organization which is rife with inaccuracies and completely biased against vaccinations. A better place for vaccine information would be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or a genuine, qualified medical doctor – not a chiropractor or naturopath.

LINDA L. TOCK

Milton

Australian chiropractic board has a different view

In a column entitled “Vaccines raise many questions; parents shouldn’t be bullied” (Monitor Opinion page, Aug. 13), Stephanie Foisy Mills strikes back at a writer who admonished her for not vaccinating her children, and she then fills the rest of the column with anti-vaccine rhetoric.

Interestingly, her column appeared just five days after the Chiropractic Board of Australia “ordered practitioners to remove all anti-vaccination material from their websites and clinics” (See chiropracticboard.gov.au, Aug. 8, 2013). The chairman of that board, Dr. Phillip Donato, said, “The Board takes a very strong view of any practitioner who makes unsubstantiated claims about treatment which is not supported within an evidence-based context.”

I strongly suspect that one of these unsubstantiated claims involves the alleged link between vaccines and autism (which Foisy Mills thankfully did not mention). This claim was thoroughly discredited in a special court proceeding, the Autism Omnibus Proceedings, that took place over eight years (July 2002 to August 2010) and ended when a ruling on the final of three test cases was issued. During this very thorough proceeding, all relevant scientific evidence was weighed by three judges. Their conclusion: Vaccines do not cause autism. The entire collection of rulings, updates, etc., arising from the Omnibus Autism Proceeding can be found atuscfc.uscourts.gov/node/2718.

Of particular note in the Hazlehurst ruling was the following: “Ten of 12 co-authors on Dr. (Andrew) Wakefield’s controversial 1998 article in the medical journal The Lancet subsequently retracted their support for the article’s conclusion that there is a potential causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism.” Wakefield is the person whose article really jump-started the “vaccines equal autism” fear, so it is somehow fitting that even this very first spark of “evidence” has turned out to be illusory.

PAUL FEDORCHAK

Gilford

Terrible side effects experienced by family

Re “Vaccines raise many questions; parents shouldn’t be bullied” (Monitor Opinion page, Aug. 13):

Stephanie Foisy Mills and the Concord Monitor deserve a standing ovation. I never questioned vaccines until my baby and I were injured by them in 2007. I suffered from permanent partial hearing loss from a rubella vaccine, and he suffered from high-pitched screaming (encephalitis), cellulitis, seizures and so much more from his DTaP, HIB and IPV vaccines. I cannot tell you the nightmare that my family has endured to recover him from his injuries. He had extensive damage to his central nervous system. I became so angry that every symptom we experienced was listed as a potential side effect to the shots we were given! That same year, that I realized there were three other victims in my family – including one death.

Yes, the website Mills cites is wonderful. You can also Google “Vaccine package insert” to see the side effects listed. Lastly, be sure to read Fear of the Invisible by Janine Roberts and Vaccine Safety Manual by Neil Z. Miller to further educate yourself. You simply cannot argue with the hundreds of government sources cited in these books.

DAWN CRIM

Laconia

Foisy Mills misunderstands nature of her freedoms

Stephanie Foisy Mills describes criticism of her position against vaccination – a position that goes against the scientific and medical consensus and has no facts behind it – as a danger to freedoms (“Vaccines raise many questions; parents shouldn’t be bullied,” Monitor Opinion page, Aug. 13). She even uses the term “bullying” to describe attempts to convince parents to vaccinate.

Mills misunderstands the nature of the freedoms provided her under the system. Within the limits of the law, she has the freedom to make medical choices and the freedom to speak about these choices openly. She does not, however, have the freedom or right not to be criticized when she promotes a choice that goes against the evidence and that can put children at risk. There the freedom in question is the freedom of speech of her critics to say why and how her choice is wrong. Attempting to silence these critics by trying to present their behavior as infringing on her freedom is problematic.

DORIT REISS

Fremont

Dorit Reiss is an associate law professor Hastings campus at the University of California. I find it interesting, as I'm sure others might as well, that the Concord Monitor decided to publish her comment over the long list of others that they said they received from their readers. Miss Reiss is being represented as a resident of Fremont.

It is my understanding that children are required to be vaccinated before attending public schools in NH. It is also my understanding that Mills' children, that she claims in her ads "have not been vaccinated", attend Concord public schools. Could someone please clarify if the State requirements are not being enforced, or if there are exceptions, or is the advertisement false?

Hi Transfer, New Hampshire allows parents to file for medical or religious exemptions to the required childhood vaccinations. Medical exemptions are granted with written documentation from a licensed physician or authorized health care provider. Medical exemptions are supposed to be limited in time and scope, though, which means the exemption is specific to the immunization that would adversely affect the child's health for only as long as there is a danger, and doesn't grant exemption from other required vaccines. Religious exemptions are granted with a notarized form. 17 states, including Maine and Vermont, but not NH, allow philosophical exemptions as well. Hope that helps. -Sarah Palermo, Monitor health reporter

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