Franklin Countys First News

In support of vaccination and LD 798

Dr. Ryan Whitt

My name is Ryan Whitt. I am a resident of Wilton, Maine; I am a father, and I am a pediatrician at Franklin Memorial Hospital and Franklin Health Pediatrics. I also serve as the Regional School Unit 9 school physician. As you may be aware, our state legislators recently drafted LD 798, a bill that would eliminate the current philosophical and religious exemptions for full vaccination for public school children.

I am writing to reach out to sensible, responsible parents and others in our community to urge you to learn about this bill and to act to support it to keep our public-school children safe from deadly, vaccine-preventable disease. Unfortunately, the anti-vaccination community in our state is a vocal minority that spreads fear and distrust. We need individuals who support keeping public school students safe from disease to speak up loudly and clearly.

We have all read and seen the news lately about the resurgence of deadly diseases around the country. It is not a coincidence that these outbreaks occur in areas of the country with low vaccination rates as low vaccination rates are directly related to increased likelihood of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease. For instance, 90-95 percent of a population must be immunized against measles in order to keep outbreaks from occurring. The outbreaks that we are hearing about in the news are because vaccination rates dropped below 90-95 percent. Because of such outbreaks, parents have been forced to make uncomfortable decisions about where their children should go to school or daycare and who their children should spend time with. My wife and I frequently worry about sending our son to playgroups, music classes, or swim lessons where unvaccinated children may expose him to deadly diseases. We are deeply concerned for our young niece and nephew who live in Portland, Oregon, which is currently a hotbed for measles. It is my hope that parents in our community and our state will not have to continue to worry about sending our children to public schools.

As a pediatrician, I sometimes encounter parents who have been led to question the safety of vaccinations. Unfortunately, faulty science along with fear and distrust of the medical system has led to this vaccination “debate” become mainstream. There is no debate. Vaccines are safe, effective, and safe lives. Period.

As a parent, I completely understand the deeply-rooted and instinctual urge to do everything possible to protect your child. Every decision we make as parents can have consequences for our children and every parent wants to keep their children safe and happy. However, there is overwhelming medical evidence proving the safety of vaccines. Unfortunately, a great deal of resources have gone into proving and re-proving the safety of vaccines, thus drawing valuable resources away from developing and improving potentially life-saving research. It is really not a tough decision. Immunizations are the best preventative measures parents can take to protect their children.

As a pediatrician, I have cared for tens of thousands of patients and have ordered tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of vaccinations. Yes, I have had patients who have had rashes, fevers, or fussiness following their vaccines, as one might expect given that all interventions have some expected side effects. However, I have seen zero reactions that have led to any long-term health issues in my patients. Zero!

On the flip side I have seen how dangerous the diseases we vaccinate against can be. I have seen outbreaks of Pertussis in Franklin County. I witnessed community hysteria after a single case of measles came through the Franklin Memorial Emergency Room in 2017. I cared for children who had meningitis as infants and who, as a result, had such severe brain damage that they will never be able to walk or talk. I cried alongside parents as their child took his last breath from a vaccine preventable disease. In an era of great scientific advances, I hope to never do this again.

I know how serious these illnesses can be and that is why I work hard every day to keep these diseases away from my family and my patients. I often pose the following questions to parents who are skeptical of vaccines, “Why do you see me if you do not fully trust me? How can you trust me to treat your child’s pneumonia or ear infection if you don’t trust me on vaccines?”

The World Health Organization has recently ranked vaccine hesitancy — the growing resistance to widely available lifesaving vaccines — as one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019. In 2017-2018, Maine had the 7th highest non-medical vaccine exemption rate in the country, at 5.3 percent. Low vaccination rates put Maine children at risk for diseases that are entirely preventable and high community immunity rates are essential for protecting our children.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce the risk of exposing our children to vaccine-preventable diseases. LD798 was drafted as a preventative measure. As written, the bill will continue to allow for medical exemptions for vaccines for patients who are unable to get vaccines due to underlying medical conditions. It simply removes the wording allowing parents to continue to send their children to school as long as they sign that they have a religious or philosophical exemption.

There are some who claim that this bill will exclude children from public education. This is simply not true. In the state of Maine, children who do not attend brick and mortar public schools will still have opportunities to engage in a free and appropriate public education through public virtual schools and academies. If children have a legitimate chronic disease such as cancer or an underlying immunodeficiency, they are still able to attend brick and mortar public schools with a medical exemption. The legislation will help keep these children and our vaccinated population safe when attending school.

There are several important steps that you can take to advance LD798. First, if you are not fully convinced of the safety of vaccinations, I would encourage you to find reliable resources on the topic. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a wonderful website on vaccine safety which can be found at https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center. You can also talk to your child’s doctor or your own doctor about the safety of vaccines.

Second, you can advocate for vaccines amongst your friends and families, especially those who may question the safety of vaccines. Making sure our community is safe from deadly disease is everyone’s responsibility.

Third, you can add your name to the list of parents who support vaccination on the following website: https://www.mainefamiliesforvaccines.com

Fourth, you can write your legislators and encourage them to follow through on passing the upcoming legislation. Unfortunately the anti-vaccination community is a very vocal minority. We need more input from those who understand the importance of vaccination and to encourage our leaders to act to protect our children.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can submit written testimony or provide public testimony to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Public schools must be a safe place to learn for all children and cannot be continually disrupted by disease outbreaks that are preventable. This pediatrician and father is imploring our leaders and community to take action. Ensuring that children are immunized as a condition of school entry is common-sense, constitutional, and critical measure for protecting our great community!

Ryan Whitt, MD
Franklin Health Pediatrics
Resident of Wilton

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66 Responses »

  1. I had posted something this morning, but the moderator found a website link I included "questionable". Unfortunately, I don't have access to the previous comments, so I will begin anew.

    The major debate here is.... how far is too far? Should the government be able to dictate to us what we must inject into our or our children's bodies? Should the people who believe that vaccines present no risk be allowed to dictate to the rest of us? If these vaccines are so effective why should it matter if someone doesn't take them? The vaccinated are protected, right? Do we all just follow the "herd" mentality?

    Which studies should we look at in determining the benefit / risk assessments? Who has funded these studies? Are there conflicts of interest with the parties involved? Is it just the CDC or WHO that are the authorities on the topic? What of the studies that don't agree with their findings, but conclude the benefits don't outweigh the risk? Are these findings being suppressed?

    If this does pass, how will the children who aren't vaccinated get their education? If truancy is in effect will this put the parents who don't immunize at risk of legal consequences? Will the schools be required to turn over the funds, allocated per child, for schooling to the parents who must find alternative education ( ie homeschooling )?

    May freedom still ring in this great country!

  2. My Anecdotal Evidence:

    As new parents somewhat wary of vaccinations, but intent on learning more, my wife and I spoke with medical professionals in our pre-natal care, as well as our family doctor, Jim Smith. We felt strongly that our children deserved to have every opportunity to live healthy and productive lives, but we were nervous about the regimen of injections. Dr. Smith assured us that all would be well, citing decades of safe use. However, he humored us and allowed us to space out the injections over a longer period of time, so our first child would receive no more than two at time. We felt like this would avoid overwhelming the systems in our infant. We were frequent fliers at the office, and sometimes got confused looks from the staff as we elongated the schedule, but we felt like we had been heard and our opinions valued. Thanks, Dr. Smith, for putting up with us. We built up a great patient/doctor relationship and experienced a high level of care thanks to him.

    We now have 5 children, ages 8-17, all fully vaccinated, not all on the same schedule, and all are healthy, enrolled in school, and thriving. I am grateful and consider my family blessed that none of us have suffered needlessly from preventable diseases. I hope that we don't need to see a return of the awful childhood maladies of days past that left so many dead, deformed, or paralyzed in order to "want" vaccines to protect our children.

    My Point:
    As a school teacher, I defend the right for parents to make educational and health care choices for their children. However, they cannot choose the consequences of said choices. As Dr. Batt stated, this is not forced injection, but a set of medical prerequisites to attending school. If this bill gives them the choice between full vaccination (or medical exemption) and full public education at a brick and mortar school, then I am satisfied that personal freedom is still intact.

    Bob Nielsen

  3. Michael, I must say you outdid the rest. The best to you and thanks for being my dentist for the time you practiced. Eddie,you said it right also. ALL had good points to their comments... government intrusion and intervention in personal matters etc. My addition to this is simply....the vaccinating business is a $16,000,000 a day venture!

  4. If children are forced to get the states choice of vaccines to go to public school, they must get a school tax exemption if they choose to opt out.

  5. I have read a majority of these studies claiming safety of vaccinations. I have read them scrupulously and objectively. I have found plausible issue with every one, from sample size to procedure. I argue no truly valid study may be done to evaluate these vaccinations because there is not a large enough population of unvaccinated children to account for proper randomized sampling.

    I will also argue that there are known, documented, and disclosed side effects of these vaccinations, one being encephalitis. Encephalitis symptoms may mimic those of Autism. That is not a conspiracy, just try looking up the side effects of each of these vaccinations.

    Although I conceded to vaccinate my children, I was scared out of my mind to do so. My oldest son was developing perfectly on target until his first DTap vaccination. He then became impulsive and now has difficulty focusing in school. I'm not convinced they are safe but felt like it was my obligation as a parent in a community to prevent an illness from spreading to the unimmunable.

    Sure, I think some vaccinations are necessary but am really tired of all the propaganda surrounding them. The drug companies are making a killing off of these. Our economy is safe from collapse due to a widespread vaccine preventable disease. Zombie parents listen to fear mongering and propaganda splayed on the news, radio, and on those watered down information sheets handed out after a child's vaccinations. 90% of people talking about vaccination safety have never read one of the damn studies or don't have a background sufficient enough to truly comprehend them.

    I am not convinced they are safe, frankly, I'm convinced they are not. Dr. Ryan Whitt, frankly your patients trust you because all Dr.s are trained to believe the same way, and they have no other choice if they want to receive life saving medication for their children.

    No you can not take a child's education away because his parents are afraid of vaccinating him. All children (not just the vaccinated) are entitled to a free and appropriate education, that includes appropriate socialization. Early Childhood students would not be satisfactorily taught via an online program. I would argue given the team focused job market, no child of any age can be deprived of a brick and mortar education where opportunities for collaboration and socialization are abundant.

  6. 1. there is absolutely no credible link between vaccinations and autism (frequently codeworded as "vaccine injury.")

    2. it is absolutely disgusting that some people would so strongly dehumanize people with autism spectrum and other developmental or mental health disorders that they would weigh the imagined vaccine-related risk to their own children against the very clearly fatal diseases vaccines are proven to prevent. you are essentially telling people with autism that they would be better off dead.

  7. Melissa, please don't think ALL doctors are trained and think the same.I know several including veterinarians that are open to alternative cures and preventions AND are skeptical of so many vaccinations. Research "vaccinosis." I do believe Jenner did us a great service however.

  8. A lot of people have a political reason to promote fear and distrust. It's hard in today's society to always know what to believe. My 15 year old son was working on a speech on "fake news" for school, and in talking with him we discussed just how easy it is for people with links and persuasive propaganda to claim reality isn't what it is. He found an example in a very reputable newspaper for his speech. People get so overloaded that they don't take the time to dig and compare (e.g, is their a peer reviewed study, what is the methodology, do the claims made really say what the headline says they do, etc.). Often the default is "well, there must be something to both sides," which isn't always the case.

    Here is a link to the report on the Danish study of over 650,000 children over 11 years, which was done on the heels of a study of over 500,000. The report has a link to the study itself, if you want to look at its methodology. There are also links to previous studies. These offer incredibly strong evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism. This is an example of the kind of intense scrutiny vaccines have received. I believe our food, and household products we use all the time, are far more dangerous than vaccines, and far less studied. Anyway, here's a link to the report on the Danish study: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/04/699997613/a-large-study-provides-more-evidence-that-mmr-vaccines-dont-cause-autism

    I do think young folk are learning to be more cynical about "fake news" and not so trusting of internet propaganda. I have a lot of faith in the next generation!

  9. Bob, thank you for the kind words, and my best to you also. And thank you for being a great patient!

    I would like to clarify to people who have read my previous comments that I am not totally opposed to vaccinations. My wife and I have 5 sons who were all vaccinated, but we had it done on a very limited basis. Polio was an easy choice to make, because its historical results were very good, and we had heard almost nothing about the possibilities of polio vaccine injury. Our family doctor was honest with us and admitted that there was at least some amount of risk with vaccines in general. My wife and I held our breaths and prayed while our sons received the MMR and DPT vaccines, but we really didn't go further than those. We were shocked when our MD recommended that the boys get the HBV as infants and little children. After what had happened to me because of the HBV, it was a no-brainer for us to decline that option. And after our 2nd oldest son had such a severe reaction to vaccines at the age of 20, we were very glad that we hadn't pushed the envelope further when the boys were young.

    What I am totally very opposed to is legally forcing people to have vaccinations. Requiring such is truly the product of totalitarianism. Vaccines are not natural to the human body. They are toxic, and the fact that many people have been seriously injured by vaccines is proof of that. Because the administration of vaccines is such a grave responsibility for both parents and health care providers, it is paramount that consideration must be given to parents who are concerned about possible risks. If parents can't have the final say in their children's vaccine programs, then we are truly not living in a free country.

    If vaccines were 100% safe, and also were guaranteed to give 100% immunity, I would feel much better about them. But we know (and I SURELY know) that they aren't 100% safe. And we know that they aren't 100% effective, either. Like I said earlier, in my nieces' school, the chicken pox outbreak lasted 8 weeks. The only kids who came down with it were the vaxxed kids. Zero of the un-vaxxed kids came down with it. And I remember reading a few years ago about a serious outbreak of whooping cough in California. There were hundreds of cases, and doctors were just completely perplexed, because all but a small handful of the victims had been vaxxed. So your children could become victims of an epidemic, even if they have been vaxxed. I personally would prefer that my un-vaxxed child would get sick or even die from an outbreak of disease, rather than to have my child have to suffer and be disabled because I allowed them to be injected with something that is known to be toxic in the first place. Catching a disease is a totally unknown risk. Injecting a vaccine entails knowing full well that you are injecting a load of toxins, and toxins in the human body are a totally known risk.

  10. If vaccines were 100% safe, and also were guaranteed to give 100% immunity, I would feel much better about them. But we know (and I SURELY know) that they aren't 100% safe. And we know that they aren't 100% effective, either.

    seatbelts and airbags can cause serious injuries. bicycle helmets and smoke detectors are not 100% effective. but if you do not utilize these safety measures you are a neglectful parent willfully endangering your children because of your own ignorance.

  11. @myopic - You also don't inject seat belts, airbags, bicycle helmets and smoke detectors into your small child's frail human body. You're trying to compare apples to oranges.

  12. @myopic - I would like to add a little more comment. Whether a child is vaccinated or not vaccinated, we have no idea of the certainty of whether they will catch a childhood disease. Same with an accident, whether you take safety precautions or not, you still have no idea whether an accident will occur. When you vaccinate children, however, you know with 100% certainty that you are injecting numerous toxins into their bodies. You have 0% certainty beforehand of how those toxins are going to affect those bodies. That's why vaccination is a grave responsibility for both the parent and the health care provider.

  13. It should be a parents right to make choices for their child...and there are Vaccine Injuries....to deny that is like saying there are no allergic reactions to vaccines because all doctors say there are 0 side effects and they are absolutely safe. For all of you that have healthy, typically developing children....you don't have to live with the fear that the things you put into your child will further harm them, when you have watched your child suffer and change after being vaccinated, for us the benefits DO NOT outweigh the risks....here is a question...if all of you out there that are faithfully standing up for vaccinating your children, are out there saying my children who are only partially vaccinated are a risk to others, and are saying that my child threatens your childs health....if you are so sure that these vaccinations are working and are such a good idea, then they should protect your child against diseases my child might have right? It makes no sense...just as u believe u are protecting your child, i believe i am protecting mine from something I have seen first hand negatively effect them.

  14. Jean, this was mentioned earlier but perhaps you missed it. Even with two boosters the measles vaccine is 97% effective. That means 3% are not immune. In a school of 400, that's 12 kids. Other vaccines are more or less effective (and again, it often depends on how many shots). So the vaccines don't work all the time, and that's why people fear that unvaccinated children could be a threat to even vaccinated children. When vaccination levels are extremely high, the disease virtually disappears. If they go down, you risk outbreaks (like what's happened on the West coast). You also seem to have missed the acknowledgment that NOTHING is 100% safe (again, some people are allergic to water even). Yet allergies to vaccines are very low. Now, I ultimately come down on the side of not wanting to force people to get their kids vaccinated in order to go to public school. But it's not because I believe the propaganda against vaccines. I am absolutely convinced that the chemical crap put in our junk food and the stuff in our cheap plastics does far more harm to our health than vaccines.

    I'm not a doctor, and that's probably why I end up siding with those against the bill - I see the political issue as being as important as the health issue, but it's a tough call. Yet I think the doctors who have posted here are citing very well confirmed studies and analysis, while opposition to vaccines is built on flimsy and often propagandistic information.

  15. It is not about vaccination it is about rights! Thanks to the founding fathers of the United States, we have rights and freedoms! Please respect it! If you want parents to vaccinate their kids, educate us about vaccines, not force us!
    Forcing anyone, you just lose trust and respect!
    As for vaccines, I am a pro-vaccine person, but there are lots of case when kids/people have intolerance to vaccine components with severe side effects. For example, my friend was getting flu shots since childhood, till she got her last one and went into coma. There are cases when neurological impairments were as side effects and destroyed people's life for their life-span.
    Before forcing mandatory vaccines, make them safe for everyone!

  16. Public safety measures are laws to protect people (and sometimes animals). If you don't use public roads, public schools, etc., you might have a say that these laws shouldn't pertain to you. Otherwise, your argument is questionable.

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