Vaccination vexation

By The Editorial Board | May 09, 2019

The only thing more vexing this spring than the state of the roads is the inability of government to respond reasonably to the issue of vaccine legislation.

Vaccines all but eradicated diseases including measles and polio, and we support strict laws requiring that children be vaccinated, except in the very rare case of a legitimate medical reason. This is needed to protect our schools and our society. It is simple science, and the current measles outbreak is proof of what happens when people are allowed to opt out of this important medical treatment.

That said, we understand how we got here. A hypothesis that autism was linked to vaccinations was widely reported by trustworthy news outlets years ago. It has since been thoroughly debunked by the medical community and scientific studies.

The result has been that there are parents out there who are not sure who to trust. Do they believe the scientists and doctors, the World Health Organization and the CDC? Are these decisions influenced by money, as so many things are in this country?

Many people on both sides of the issue talk to journalists about simple, clear-cut, black-and-white solutions that should be implemented for the greater good. We agree that the need for mandatory vaccinations is one of those subject-closed issues. We need to do it, plain and simple.

The reason we still see such strong debate over issues like this one is that it raises a conflict between two deeply held American beliefs. One is that we should have the freedom to decide what medical procedures we have and what is best for our kids. The other is that we must do what is right to protect the health of society as a whole.

A bill before the Maine Legislature last week could have been effective in dealing with this issue by eliminating philosophical and religious exemptions, but a group of Republicans and a few Democrats in the Senate amended it to allow religious exemptions.

Locally, Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, has been taking heat for siding with the Republicans to support religious exemptions. Many are disappointed that he did not keep the bill strong and effective, because now anyone can say they have a religious objection and opt out of the vaccination requirement.

We would argue the Republicans, too, should have their feet held to the fire. While there is a message in the news that Miramant should start voting like any good Democrat would, that's a partisan take on the issue.

We suspect there are many Republicans who believe there should be mandatory vaccinations, but who voted against the bill to hold the party line and keep the religious voters in their base happy.

If everyone had voted their conscience, as we believe Miramant did, perhaps the results would be different.

What is clear is that those who represent the voice of reason and science should patiently and persistently continue to make their case. Perhaps they will not be able to simply push this through based on the fact that they are right. In politics in this country and state, you have to sell even the most commonsense idea to the voters and the lawmakers. Merely showing contempt for those who disagree seems to be getting us nowhere.

Remembering a local hero

We were very sorry to hear about the death of Rockland Police Sgt. Matthew Lindahl.

Lindahl was a local hero who saved lives, including in an incident in recent years when he helped save a young woman who was kidnapped off the street. He was honored for these acts by the police department and the community, but he hated the attention. For Lindahl, it really was about protecting and serving. It is a tragic loss for this community, where he gave so much to others.

He was like family for us, as his mother, Judy, worked as copy editor for The Courier-Gazette for many years.

We wish his family and his colleagues sincere condolences.

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