Voters face vaccine choice, pick candidates in primaries

By Steve Betts | Jan 15, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Flanagan Community Center will be the voting location for Rockland March 3.

Maine voters will decide March 3 whether they want to keep or repeal a law that allows only medical exemptions for vaccinations in order for students to attend school.

Registered Democrats will have a say in who their party nominates for president.

The election includes the one referendum forced by a petition written by opponents to a law approved last year by the Maine Legislature, to remove religious and philosophical exemptions for immunization against certain diseases for students to attend schools, along with employees of nursery schools and health care facilities.

The law is pending the March 3 vote and will not take effect if the repeal is approved.

The Legislature approved the law last spring in the wake of an increase in cases of diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

Local physicians and health care officials support the measure. State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, voted against the bill last year, citing opposition from some members of the public.

Pediatricians and school nurses met with Miramant in April 2019 in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to convince him to support the bill.

At that meeting, Dr. Adeline Winkes, a pediatrician, said allowing 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.

Winkes said at that April meeting that she was disturbed by things that Miramant said during a public hearing on the bill, saying there was "very little basis in scientific fact."

Dr. William Stephenson, another local pediatrician, spoke at length during the April meeting with Miramant to counter some of the arguments that anti-vaccination advocates raise. The physician 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.

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

Presidential primaries

People registered in the Democratic and Republican parties can also cast their ballot for their candidates.

The Maine Legislature approved a law in June 2019 to switch from caucuses to primaries for 2020. Turnout is generally higher in a primary where people can vote by absentee ballot or go to the polls on election day.

President Donald Trump of Palm Beach, Fla. is uncontested on the Republican primary ballot.

Democrats, however, have several choices.

Former Vice President Joseph Biden of Wilmington, Del.; Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigeg; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Honolulu, Hawai'i; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minneapolis, Minn.; Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick of Richmond, Mass.; U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Burlington, Vt.; businessman Thomas Steyer of San Francisco, Calif.; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Cambridge, Mass.; businessman Andrew Yang of New York City; U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of Newark, N.J.; and author and activist Marianne Williamson of Des Moines, Iowa will have their names on the ballot.

Booker and Williamson have dropped out of the race, but their names will remain on the ballot because the state ballots have already been printed.

Other candidates could drop out before March 3. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, the New Hampshire primary Feb. 11, the Nevada caucuses Feb. 22, and the South Carolina primary Feb. 29 prior to Maine's primary vote.

The Secretary of State's Office said it issues notices that will be posted at polling places to make voters aware of who has dropped out of the race.

Absentee ballots will be available at municipalities 30 days before the March 3 election.

Maine will send 24 delegates to the Democratic convention to select a nominee. A candidates needs 1,990 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Kim Slawson | Jan 30, 2020 13:37

Thank you. Louisa. for your very well-written commentary.

Posted by: Louisa Enright | Jan 25, 2020 09:14

Respectfully, Mr. Betts, what you have written here is not a news article, but an opinion piece that gives only one side of this story.

Why did hundreds of people, many of them young parents, spend their summer last year gathering signatures to take this issue to a referendum?  Many, maybe even most, of these people are NOT anti-vaccine and vaccinate their children. What they want is to be able to make medical decisions for their children without risking losing their children’s rights to a public education.  The one-size-fits-all vaccine policy this mandate creates is not in the best interests of anyone, because vaccines react very differently in different people.  For some, they create problems—which the Supreme Court recognized in 1986 when they ruled that vaccines were “unavoidably unsafe.”  A recent government funded study by Harvard Pilgrim revealed that only about 1 percent of vaccine damage is reported to the VAERS “court.”  That’s interesting on two counts: (1) since no comprehensive vaccine damage statistics are being kept by anyone in this country, there is no accurate cost/benefit analysis from which to evaluate calls for vaccine mandates, and (2) insurance companies are now taking a closer look at the amount of vaccine damage they are going to have to fund alongside the vaccine mandates.

Under Maine’s vaccine mandate, a parent who has a child experiencing trouble cannot slow down or stop the mandated vaccine schedule without losing their child’s rights to a public education.  The assumption that Maine doctors can make this decision assumption.  In California, doctors have effectively been totally removed from the process as they have been limited to a very small amount of exemptions they can issue.  Vaccine damage in California has risen in the past two years, especially in the cohart of children coming up to school age who were not “fully” vaccinated.  Why?  Shouldn’t that trend be investigated?

It has emerged that most people in Maine did not realized that this mandate also covers all private and ONLINE schools. That means that if I, at 75 years of age, want to take an online course, I could not without proving that I was currently fully vaccinated according to the mandate.  How is that situation going to work out over time?

I would suggest that our local newspaper try to do a better job of covering this very messy issue—starting with the idea of “herd immunity.”  Maine, in fact, has a very high vaccination rate among its school population.  And we do not have a disease problem of note.  But how can you have “herd immunity” when school children are exposed to adults outside the school arena on a regular basis?  Herd immunity is an actual scientific theory that recognizes how diseases come into the world, kill a lot of people, and gradually over time people evolve so that they still get the disease but don’t die from it.  Vaccine manufacturers have turned this concept on its head by changing the definition to mean that via vaccines, people no longer get the disease.

I am NOT arguing here against vaccines.  My own children were vaccinated.  I am arguing FOR individual choice and parental choice for a medical product that is not safety tested like other drugs as it classified differently.  I am arguing for slowing down until we have actual damage data.  I am arguing that where there is danger, there must be choice.  And I would note that actual “anti-vaxers” are people who have damaged children or who have been damaged themselves or who know someone who has been damaged.

The drug companies are NOT reliable narrators for vaccine safety.  Merck, for instance, has two ongoing law suits about lying about the MMR vaccine safety data.  And it is not working for regulatory agencies, like the CDC, to also be participating in the vaccine market. That’s corrupt.  Further, the big studies saying vaccines are safe are epidemiological studies—which can only show a possible correlation about something.  They cannot prove or disprove anything.  We need real science at the cellular to make informed decisions about using a medical product.

So, please, cover the complexity of this issue instead of participating in demonizing people who are raising legitimate concerns.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jan 16, 2020 16:24

Maine does not want to confuse the Republicans by giving them a choice.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jan 15, 2020 13:03

Those candidates would have had to gather sufficient signatures and file nomination papers,

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Jan 15, 2020 11:58

Why does Maine not have the other Republican candidates who are running for President on the ballot?

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