Pediatricians and school nurses, along with other citizens, met Friday, April 12, with State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, to voice concerns about his opposition to eliminating most exemptions for school-aged vaccinations.

At the end of the hour-long meeting, the Democratic state senator said he was still not certain how he would vote on legislation to eliminate the exemptions for vaccinations based on religious and philosophical objections. The proposed law — LD 798 — would continue to allow exemptions for legitimate medical reasons.

Miramant said the lack of exemptions would end up kicking children out of schools, but that was met with considerable objections by those in attendance, who said the choice not to vaccinate is that of the parents.

Dr. Adeline Winkes, a pediatrician, said she was concerned that the current law — which allows exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons — puts not only those children at risk of serious preventable diseases, but other children.

Winkes said there are valid reasons for a child not to be given a live vaccine, such as if the child were undergoing chemotherapy. But those same children could be at risk if a classmate exposes them to a disease because they are not vaccinated. She said the children who are fragile could become severely ill or die if they contract these preventable diseases.

"I read through your testimony," Winkes said, referring to Miramant's statements to the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which reviewed the bill. "I was disturbed by things that I think have very little basis in scientific fact."

She said research that has since been determined to be fraudulent still is being circulated on the internet. She said that he is a public figure and when he talks, it gets attention.

One speaker pointed out that 90 percent of people get vaccinated, and that Miramant is representing the 10 percent opposed to vaccines.

The Camden Democrat said that 60 percent of the people who testified at the Legislature's public hearing on LD 798 and 60 percent of the emails he has received are opposed to the bill to reduce exemptions.

The doctors also took aim at Miramant's claim that drug companies dictate the schedule for when children receive vaccinations. Winkes said those schedules are developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Janis Hogan, the school nurse for the Five-Town Community School District, said Camden Hills Regional High School has one of the highest rates of unvaccinated students in the state. She expressed support for the medical profession's recommendations for immunizations.

Those at the meeting also said that Miramant was incorrect when he said children are required to receive 72 vaccinations during their childhood. The number is far less, they noted.

Dr. William Stephenson, another local pediatrician, spoke at length with Miramant to counter some of the arguments that anti-vaccination advocates raise. He pointed out that one concern is that there is aluminum in a particular vaccine, but the amount is so minute that a person gets more aluminum from drinking one can of soda. He also pointed out that mercury is no longer in vaccines, even though there was no science to show ill effects from the type used.

Joe Kleinman compared the disreputable studies linking vaccines to autism to the flat Earth theory.

The Legislature has held a public hearing and work session on the bill. No vote in the House or the Senate has been scheduled.