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 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:

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. Can you guarantee that there will be no serious adverse effect and/or injury from any vaccination?

  2. Ryan, why are you deeply worried if your own children and their cousins are all fully vaccinated? My kids are vaxed for those things, and I sleep pretty well at night. If their vaccines aren't enough, then the odds are greatly in their favor that they will survive measles. Personally, I have no immunity to chicken pox, but I still swim in public pools and lakes and go to Walmart. (I was vaxed as an adult but the immunity didn't last very long.) I appreciate those who are vaccinated for CP but I also know it is not a sure bet.

    Also, while my kids are not your patients, I am certain that as a ped you have had parents report to you that their child received a bunch of shots on a Tuesday and by Thursday they were not the same kid. That, in addition to seizures and hives, happened to one of mine. I was told by our ped that it was all just a coincidence. So if they don't have cancer, the medical exemption is no good to them if their ped blows off parent observations. Do you know my kids better than I do?

    Not everyone who takes up your precious time in the office questioning vaccines has an agenda or considers themselves anti-vaxers. I would think that as a father and pediatrician, you would have some compassion rather than supporting government overreach. Please consider the individuals you treat as unique. We don't all respond to medications or vaccines the same. Yea, I trust you to use a stethoscope or look in my kids' ears, but I don't trust that you take me seriously. Certainly not after this letter.

  3. Mr. Whitt why are your kids and othe vaccinated kids in danger because of unvaccinated kids ? Shouldn’t the vaccines keep the vaccinated kids safe?

  4. I'm not a doctor, but really looked into these issues back when my kids were born to assure I was making a smart choice.

    Vaccines are not perfect. Usually when people get a disease they are vaccinated against they got a milder form, but it's still possible to contract a disease and have serious problems even if one is vaccinated. That is rare -- after two doses of the measles vaccine 97% of those vaccinated are immune. But that means 3 out of 100 are not. , Now, if vaccinations are near universal the odds of an outbreak affecting vaccinated children are exceedingly low. But if the number of unvaccinated children climbs, not only are they in danger (and I believe any physician is concerned about more than his or her own kids) but the chances of vaccinated children getting the disease goes up.

    All that said, I personally am skeptical of using government power to force people to get their kids vaccinated. I tend to fear a too powerful government more than I fear unvaccinated kids.

    But if you look at the science, the evidence is overwhelming that vaccines are safe. People tend to mix correlation with causality. Since many problems show themselves at about one year of age, if a child had a vaccine and then soon after shows signs of another problem, people will often assume it must have been the vaccine. If the child did not get the vaccine the problem would have shown up (studies show this - the rates of things like autism are the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated children.) It's like if I were to drink a Shamrock shake and then come down with the flu. I might blame the shake! If it happened next year, then I'd say it has to be the shake causing the flu. The reality, of course, is that shamrock shakes come out during the height of the flu season and they do not cause the disease. That seems obvious, but because vaccines are a medical procedure, people have a harder time not accepting that problems that come up are not due to the vaccine.

  5. Yikes, I had a double negative in my last sentence: It should end "people have a harder time accepting that problems that come up are not due to the vaccine."

  6. As a mother to a fully vaccinated two-year-old and a Wilton resident, I appreciate all you are doing to raise awareness, Dr. Whitt. Keeping my child, his friends, and our entire communtiy safe is a responsibility I cannot fathom anyone shirking. I support LD 798 and the hard work that our local physicians do to keep us healthy.

  7. Thank you Dr. Whitt for the sound information and for everything you are doing to keep our kids and communities safe! Some children are too young to receive certain vaccinations so it’s imperative that the children around them are vaccinated, in order to stop the spread of diseases that can be prevented and essentially eliminate these diseases from our towns. I support LD 798, keep up the good work!

  8. Can you guarantee that there will be no serious adverse effect and/or injury from any vaccination?


  9. there is simply no way that you, Dr Whitt, know more about my son than I do. But you probably know more about his skeletal system, circulatory system, endocrine system, etc. If he were to break his arm, develop a rash, or have any other ailment, I would trust your qualifications over mine. I am no expert in medicine, nor the statistics behind herd immunity, but I do trust your decade of medical training and your dedication to the well being of my child.

    If we can’t trust our pediatricians about vaccinations, who can we trust?

  10. Great article! Thanks, Dr. Whitt!

  11. Vaccines save lives. End of story. Thank you for taking a stand.

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful writing, Ryan. I really appreciate your willingness to continue to take a public stance one the importance of vaccinations.

    The field of pediatrics was founded on the issue of advocacy for our youngest and most vulnerable members of society. Advocacy for protecting their health remains one of the most important jobs pediatricians have.

    I think it would behoove all of society to remember that pediatricians have responsibilities to both individual patients and all children more generally. Part of that responsibility to all children is to advocate for their future.

    Vaccines remain and likely always will be the greatest public health intervention ever made. We can have, and in fact should encourage, healthy debate about the science of risk/benefit ratios of any medical intervention, but it has been proven time and again that the value of vaccinations far outweigh the risks. Are there risks to vaccination at the individual level? Of course. Are they exceedingly small risks? For most patients, yes. Are there benefits to vaccination at the individual and group level? Of course. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Again, for most children, yes.

    Supporting LD798 means that we remove a dangerous clause from our state law that places all of our children at risk. Can the individual child/family whose risk of vaccination might outweigh the benefit still seek a medical exemption from vaccination? Of course they can and I have no doubt that many of the pediatricians and family medicine docs out there will gladly support those individuals in obtaining medical exemption.

    Why do I have no doubt about this? Because of the aformentioned advocacy at the core of the soul of every pediatrician. Pediatricians will advocate for the children who truly need medical exemption and will be glad to stand up for these children when no one else will. This has been true for over 100 years and pediatricians will remain at the forefront of this advocacy forever.

    No one supporting LD798 wants "forced vaccination" of children. What we want is intelligent conversation about the importance of vaccinations at both the individual and public health levels and we are glad to have it. Too often the so-called "anti-vaccination" people are close minded and refuse to engage in this conversation.

    I will finish this comment by again thanking Ryan for his willingness to put his advocacy on display. I have no doubt that there will be a very small, but vocal, group of people who will harass and bully Ryan over his advocacy. Stand tall, Ryan. Be well and do good work.

  13. Thank you for being a voice of reason in a sea of misinformation.

  14. As a Maine resident, I fully support LD 798. Overwhelmingly, medical professionals and educators globally, nationally and in our local communities advocate for vaccinations. I believe that public policy, especially policy that affects our personal safety and the safety of our children, should be directed by subject matter experts whose professional careers are dedicated to improving quality of life. Thank you, Dr. Whitt, not only for your professional contribition to the health and wellness of our community children, but also for your role as a community health advocate.

  15. Dr. Whitt, thank you for all you do for your patients and your community. As the mom to a child that is fully immunized but was recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires immunosuppressant drugs that put him at risk, I am so appreciative of your support for this bill.

  16. Thank you, Dr. Whitt, for helping keep all of our children and communities safe! It is important to see through the misinformation that is being widely spread about vaccines, and recognize that vaccines are effective and safe. I am lucky that my child was born into a generation that will greatly benefit from these vaccinations, and your thoughtful letter reminds us that together we can protect our kids from preventable diseases so that they can live happy and healthy lives.

  17. Dr. Whitt, I am so grateful for your care, articulation, and dedication to these issues. I am also so very grateful that my children are able to obtain vaccines that are lifesaving, not only for themselves. By vaccinating them, I am helping to protect the immune compromised children/adults in the community who are so vulnerable to those illnesses.

  18. Advisory to readers: This is a long post, but I think that it’s necessary in light of the contents of the above letter. Thanks for your patience!

    Dr. Whitt states in the above article, “There is no debate. Vaccines are safe, effective, and save lives. Period.” I’m not so sure about that. I have three ugly vaccine anecdotes to share from just my own family, so we can likely extrapolate my personal experiences to the experiences of 325 million Americans.

    When I was in dental school in 1984, the Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) was brought forward to the public. Dentists were strongly urged to get the vaccine, as we were forced to work with saliva and blood. I was one of the first in my class of 150 who obtained the vaccine, which I had injected in three stages.

    Not long after I finished the HBV course, I had a life event which required a large amount of exertion, both physical and mental. I had had the same experience several times before, without incident. This time, however, I was absolutely floored by a smashing lack of energy, along with sickness. I had to cancel my patients for two days, and I went back to school on the third day feeling very shaky. After that, I was always tired, feeling like I could barely get out of my own way. I started private dental practice in 1986, and my assistants always took notice of how tired I seemed to be.

    By 1989, I was struggling mightily to work. I had a collapse on the day after Thanksgiving of that year, and I knew that I had to cut back on my schedule. I was absolutely exhausted. I started working 3 days per week, followed by 3 days in bed, and then having 1 day where I felt somewhat able to live a little. Life had little joy for me, as I had a wife and 5 young sons whom I didn’t have the energy to spend time with.

    By 1996, I felt like I came down with a flu that wouldn’t go away. My life then became a routine of working 3 days per week, and spending 4 days in bed. Looking back on it, I can hardly know how I kept going as I did. My local doctor said that he could do nothing for me. He sent me to a specialist, who said, “You have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and there is nothing that can be done for you. Just go home and try to live as normal a life as possible.” I can assure you that living with CFS is like nothing close to being normal!

    Because physicians gave up on me, I foolishly turned to someone who said that he could help me, by doing Reiki and dowsing. I was very suspicious of his methods, feeling that they were occult in origin, but I tried them anyway. This “alternative medicine” caused me to undergo a massive seizure in July 1998. I was severely brain-injured, and I was forced to give up dentistry on the spot.

    As much as I had suffered for the previous 14 years, nothing would have prepared me for what I have had to face beginning in 1998. My brain function was very limited, and I have been kept alive since then only by taking medication. And as bad as living with CFS had been, the CFS had now been magnified about 100-fold. I felt like I had to vomit for 5 and ½ years, with no respite except when I was sleeping. I was almost helpless, and I was 95% bedridden for 15 years. In 2005, I started a part-time job, only because the advent of the internet allowed me to work while I was in bed, and I had lots of help from family members. Even though I spent almost all of my time in bed, I was still profoundly exhausted and deathly ill from the CFS and the effects of the seizure.

    From 1998-2011, I just existed, barely alive, with a lot of time spent in agony, sustained only by prayer and the grace of God. It seemed like I would never get any better before I died. During one of my infrequent public appearances, I met one of my former patients in town. She told me that she had just watched a TV documentary about CFS. The show stated that dentists had one of the highest incidences of CFS out of all people in the country, and that dentists also had the highest incidence of receiving the Hep B vaccine. Frankly, I was not at all surprised.

    In 2011, I found out that there was actually something that COULD be done for me. I started de-toxifying my body, using oil pulling. It involves working up a mouthful of saliva, and then spitting it into the toilet. When you spit out your saliva, you wind up spitting out microscopic amounts of toxins that were formerly in your bloodstream. Once you clear a little bit of toxins out of your blood, your blood will be able to remove a few more toxins from your body, to take the place of the toxins that you spit out. It’s a very slow, methodical process of lather, rinse, repeat. And if you have a serious chronic condition, as I had with my CFS, toxin removal causes a lot of suffering before you get better from doing it. I have stuck with it for more than 7 years, however, and my results have been very good.

    By 2013, I was able to get out of bed a little more. In 2015, my feeling of having the flu went away. I had been living with flu symptoms for more than 19 straight years, if you can imagine that! I have slowly gotten better over the past few years, and especially in the past couple of months. I feel well enough now that I just started a telephone sales job 3 weeks ago. I still spend the day in bed, propped up on pillows, but now I can sit up and stand up more, and I can even socialize a little bit. With the CFS being greatly subsided, I can exercise a little bit, also, and the exercise helps to improve my brain function.

    So are vaccines safe? It depends on who you ask. They probably don’t harm every person, but for some people, they can result in a life of living hell, even for a lifetime. One argument against vaccines is that they inject toxic elements into your body. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that my health problems began after I received 3 rounds of a controversial vaccine. And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I never started to feel better until I started to de-toxify my body.

    I know, long story, but it had to be told. And I said that I had 3 anecdotes, so here is #2:

    One of my sons was in college 10 years ago, and he was interested in going to a certain graduate school. The school that he applied to would not accept him unless he got 3 more vaccinations. I’m not sure which ones they were, but my son made an appointment with a doctor. He had the 3 shots all at once. As soon as he had had them, he started feeling very weak, and he had to lie down at the doctor’s office. When he felt that he might be able to leave, he wasn’t able to do it. He passed out before he made it out of the waiting room.

    My son was so weak that he had to call friends to drive him back to the college. He had to go to bed as soon as he got there. A couple of hours later, he came down with a 103 degree fever, and it lasted for a full week. He was barely able to eat and to go to the bathroom. He missed an entire week of classes, and for the week following, his friends had to bring him his lessons, which he struggled to do while still in bed. He eventually was able to get it together enough to finish the semester with a very demanding course load. After he recovered from the immediate effects of the vaccines, his arms shook, like he had advanced Parkinson’s, for a year before it finally subsided. Since having the vaccines, my son is tired much of the time, and work isn’t easy for him. He doesn’t have CFS, but he doesn’t have the energy that most people seem to have. And he catches almost every virus that gets close to him. Before those vaccinations, he was a normal, high-energy young man.

    So are vaccines always safe? And are they always effective? (the above letter says that “there is no debate”).
    Now #3:

    Two of my nieces attend school in Southern Maine. My sister, who understandably is vaccine-leery, has not had her girls vaccinated. About 4 years ago, chicken pox broke out in the middle school. School officials told my sister that her daughters (and all other un-vaxxed kids) had to stay home, because "they were a danger” to the other kids in school. All of the vaccinated kids stayed in school, while my sister had to home school her girls for 8 weeks. During those 8 weeks, the vaccinated kids passed the chicken pox ‘round and ‘round to each other. Not a single un-vaxxed child came down with it. If vaccines are so effective, shouldn’t the vaccinated kids have not come down with the chicken pox?

    So are vaccines safe and effective? No debate? Period? I strongly beg to differ.

  19. Thank you for your comments, Dr. Whitt. The reality is that vaccines are the most effective, safe, and life-saving medical "invention" since antibiotics in the first half of the 20th century. The safety of a dose of a vaccine exceeds that of children's ibuprofen, Tylenol, or any other commonly used medication we give children, without much of a second thought. To remember how much you have to thank vaccines for saving children's lives, please take a trip through our local cemeteries and look at the tombstones from the pre-vaccine era. Dying in childhood was natural. Common. Expected. Thankfully, mothers like me no longer have to worry about losing half of my children to vaccine-preventable disease by adulthood, thanks to vaccination that is available for FREE to you and your children at your local pediatric office, pharmacy, or grocery store. The overwhelming safety of vaccines is no long up for debate. That book has been closed long ago, by the work of the most rigorous and ethical scientific minds in the world.

    The problem with vaccines is that they do not result in immediate and complete protection. If they did, we would not have having this discussion. Children would be vaccinated and another child's status would be irrelevant. Unfortunately, that is not the science of vaccines. They work damn well, but not immediately and not 100%. I care for multiple children and families in our community who agonize over their decision to send their child to school, knowing that other children are unvaccinated, because of their child's medical disease (including cancer, prematurity, autoimmune disease, lung disease, or heart disease). Many chose eventually to keep them home. That, in my mind, constitutes an undue burden on that child and that family -- effectively taking from them their right to a public education. There is not a similar burden placed on families who chose not to vaccinate. Parents in those situations have weighed the expert medical opinion of their physician, and all the most unbiased scientific bodies in the world, and decided against vaccination. This decision is theirs to own and they should understand the associated limitations they are accepting for their children, since their decision increases the likelihood of deadly diseases returning to the community, and the schools.

    Until one looks into the eyes of a mother from Farmington, like I did only 2 years ago in our Franklin Emergency Department, after her infant dies after only 24 hours of fever, from a bacterial disease that could have prevented by routine 2 month immunizations, those arguing against vaccination don't know what they're arguing for.

    Dr. Erika Schumacher MD
    Franklin Health Pediatrics

  20. Thank you, Ryan! Science is real, vaccines work.

  21. I wonder how many other ways the Glorious States plans to keep the people's children hale and hearty. A mandatory walk everyday? An age limit on soda? A tax based on how fat your children are? The possibilities are endless! It's only limited by one's imagination!

    Sarcasm aside, the vitriolic demonization of 'un-vaxxed' children is a bit disconcerting, as it shows how deeply on an emotional level people have been manipulated and it makes me wonder how far they will go to satisfy their need to feel safe. I've seen numerous comments on articles around the internet saying that 'anti-vaxxers' shouldn't be allowed to have children. Fear is a powerful weapon, indeed.

    One of these days, the government is going to claim absolute parental authority over everyone's kids and people are going to be all for it. It all started as a slow burn in the aftermath of a period of fear. One simply needs to strike the right nerve and rights will disappear with no complaint. Look at what happened after 9/11, and then replace terrorist attack with measles outbreak and you get the same basic reaction from the populace and the same manipulation: a gradual erosion of rights that people cheer for. "It's for your safety, don't worry, and don't question it. We'll be back when we find another potential danger."

    I also find it quite convenient for Big Pharmacy that vaccines only work when everyone has been vaccinated. The money is flowing in, and with vaccine companies' immunity to accountability, they're sitting quite pretty on their nest egg with little worry of falling off. Those who rally behind them, interestingly, don't seem to have much faith in the product they are given but instead seem to cling to it with a shred of hope that it will save them from 'that infectious disease' the person next to them might have. In reality if a major outbreak of an infectious disease were to happen we're all fair game. May the best immune system win.

    Anyways, I suppose I'll stand by and await my upcoming lecture on 'herd immunity' and how we're all going to die if we don't submit to every vaccine against whatever boogeyman disease that is lurking around the corner.


  22. My mother’s sister, Ruth, died in 1918 from the flu when she was 3 years old. If there were vaccines, I might have known my Aunt Ruth.

  23. Thanks, Dr. Whitt, for your excellent letter. I couldn't make it to testify today in support of LD 798, but emailed my testimony to the organizer to read and/or submit to the committee. The point was well made that vaccination of healthy children is an asset we in the United States have that other countries can only dream of. Also, vaccination has worked so well that many parents are naive about the diseases vaccination keeps at bay for all of us! It's so frustrating to hear parents talk about death by vaccine, while ignoring the fact that unvaccinated children and vaccinated children, for that matter, die of vaccine-preventable illness. This doesn't include individuals with compromised immune systems and the elderly, to name a few. Vaccinating our healthy children is the right thing to do for those children who can't receive vaccinations. Keep up the good work!!

  24. Thank you, Dr. Whitt, for reminding us how important it is that we all take a strong, clear, and vocal stance to protect the safety of our children.

  25. Thank you, Dr. Whitt, for the important reminder. I am a parent of two; because of vaccinations, I know my children are more secure from awful diseases and illnesses that would have caused death 100 years ago. Unvaccinated children in our schools is a risk, even to those vaccinated: in some children, vaccines may not work as effectively, and when exposed to the disease, they could still contract it. Having unvaccinated children in our community makes exposure to these illnesses more likely. I think it is selfish of the parents who "choosing" to not vaccinate; they are willing to expose the vulnerable, such as newborns who haven't received their vaccinations yet, to illnesses. Non-vaccinating parents should be thankful for the parents who are choosing to vaccinate; because of our vaccinated children around their children, we are keeping their children more safe.

  26. Dr. Martin,
    Is it possible that working with mercury in fillings (as dentists often did in the past) was a contributing factor in your illness? I'm sorry you've experienced what you did and can't help but wonder about else was working against you.Best wishes -

  27. Thank you dr Witt. Spot on.

  28. Thank you, Mr Martin, for your wholly un-informative response. Nothing you said showed any direct relationship to vaccines, and honestly you kind of backed up Mr Reynolds milkshake analogy- you were vaccinated and a year later became ill, then received a diagnosis several years later, then pursued quack medicine, became more sick, pursued more quack medicine... and you blame it all on that single vaccine.
    My children are patients of Dr Whitt. I fully agree with his stance on vaccinations, and I agree that families who choose to send their children to public school should be required to get vaccinations. If you do not like it, do not send your kids to public school. And most especially do not bring your sick, unvaccinated kid to the doctor's office where they can infect infants or medically compromised children!

  29. If large groups of people take on the 'vaccines are more dangerous than the disease' mindset and stop getting their kids vaccinated, then with our high populations and with so much world travel nowadays, we will go back to the days of epidemics that could wipe out or cripple thousands. When I was a young child, polio was a huge problem. My uncle contracted it. Pres. Roosevelt had it. Kids were crippled for life and many died. The Salk vaccine introduced in the mid 1950s practically wiped out the disease. Polio is only in other countries now where vaccinations are limited. Parents who don't get their kids vaccinated are taking advantage of those who do. Unfortunately, we are now in the 'me' generation with many not considering beyond their own family. We no longer care about and unite for the common good for all. So, the government has to step in now and take more stringent action to protect public health. To those parents convinced that vaccinations are dangerous, please, read up on epidemics. We have become complacent in this country because for decades we haven't had any widespread epidemics (beyond the flu, which is hard to vaccinate against) and experienced the devastation that infectious disease can have on large numbers of people.

  30. While I support vaccination use and the efforts Pediatricians do to educate families, I do not support the government forcing medical decisions on my family, or any family. It is my job as a parent to make the best possible decisions for my children. We are on a very slippery slope in this country, with the government making decisions for us. Forcing health insurance, forcing health care decisions.....enough is enough. I whole heartedly do not support this legislature. And to those who support vaccines and therefore support this law, please take a moment to truly understand the difference. It is not one in the same. You can support vaccines and continue working to educate the importance of them. However removing the right of choice in healthcare is absolutely wrong. Please truly read this legislature before voting.

  31. People are missing the real issue here. I support vaccination, but I strenuously oppose LD 798. Scott Erb touched on it. This is a massive case of government overreach. If the government can force people to be injected with drugs, then the people don't own their own bodies. The government order is for vaccines today, but the law creates a slippery slope to whatever government decides to put in our bodies tomorrow or next year. I support education over legislation. That also provides more incentive for drug companies to make vaccines safer and more effective to boost public confidence in the procedure. Protecting vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits (as the Federal government does) and forcing people to inject drugs (as the State government is considering) is not the way to go. Better to instill confidence in the public so that they willing choose vaccination rather than force it on them. I remember when the first sugar cube polio vaccine was made available. My father and I waited in long lines to get it because the general public wholeheartedly supported it. Dr. Whitt talks about trust. While we might be inclined to trust our physician, many of us are much less inclined to trust our government, especially when drugs are prescribed by force.

  32. Excellent article making the case for this critical public safety issue. Thank you!

  33. Thank you for this thoughtful article!

  34. What Science? Is this the same science that tells us climate change is "real and dangerous"? What mis-information? Anti-Vaccine voices are being suppressed. Why is that? Why are we not allowed to hear that side of the story? If someone has a personal experience with vaccines why is that mis-information?

    Politicians and media pushing the mandatory vaccines are sponsored by big pharmacies. Why is that? $$$$

    If you think you should get a vaccine by all means get one. It's your choice. Stop allowing the government to force mandates on us! It's a very slippery slope.

  35. Thank you, Dr. Whitt, for your letter. I don't love that we have reached a point where we are having to involve government in order to get children appropriately vaccinated, but Maine parents have brought this on themselves by believing and spreading misinformation about vaccines. Unfortunately, so many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children that serious, deadly, preventable diseases are making a resurgence. So now here we are, having to write laws to keep our citizens healthy and alive. For those who don't agree with vaccinations, I suggest you start by clicking on Dr. Whitt's link to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to learn some true facts about vaccinations, reconsider your position, and share the information with your like-minded friends. Unless people start to choose to vaccinate at higher rates, efforts to pass legislation will continue.

  36. @Patient, Mr. Martin said " not long after ", I didn't see where he said one year.
    His comment was very well constructed and made perfect sense to me. I didn't get the impression whatsoever that he just assumed instantly that it was the HBV course that caused his illness.
    I believe in vaccinations, but like some here I also believe in personal/parental choice and am against government forcing injections.

  37. @Greg - Thanks for the well wishes. It may have been possible that mercury was a factor, but I'm inclined to think it wasn't. My health problems started right after I received the HBV, but I had just barely started working in the dental school clinic. Also, before I began in the dental field, CFS was basically unheard of, yet in recent decades it has become widespread, with a high prevalence in the dental population. I had some silver/mercury amalgam fillings in my own mouth for many years. In 2003, the doctor whom I was seeing told me that if I had those fillings removed and replaced with plastic composites, then my CFS would go away. I didn't have much faith that it would happen. My disability insurance company might have cut off my benefits, though, if I didn't follow his advice. So I had my fillings replaced, and absolutely nothing changed.

    @Patient - My health problems started almost immediately after I received the HBV, not a year later. Just because I didn't receive a diagnosis for a number of years later doesn't mean I wasn't suffering. It took everything I had, and then some, just to try to live a life. I usually came home from work feeling like I was going to drop dead, and my days off were spent just trying to recover and to gear up for the next 3-day round of work. If it were not the HBV that caused my tremendous suffering, what do you think it was that caused it? I would like to know your what your diagnosis for me would have been. Maybe you could help me out now, as I still am suffering a lot.

    And you pooh-pooh the fact that I tried "quack medicine." I suffered terribly for 14 years before I reached that point, and I tried alternative means only because your vaunted medical establishment gave up on me, telling me that there was nothing that could be done to help me. I saw doctors a number of times over the years from 1984-1998, and I went through all kinds of expensive tests, which showed nothing. I was probably thought of by some as a head case, as many victims of CFS are thought of in that way by medical doctors.

    And for the record, detoxification of the body is NOT "quack medicine." It's becoming more well-known now, even in some quarters of the medical community, that many chronic health conditions are caused by a build-up of toxins in the body. And once a toxin overload becomes established, the body has a more and more difficult time to rid itself of incoming toxins, and the chronic health condition just compounds for the unfortunate victim. The only answer to a toxic overload of the body is to detoxify the body. That's what I have done, and that's what has worked for me, and for other people whom I know who have tried detoxification.

    And also Mr./Ms. Patient, you completely ignored the anecdotal evidence that I wrote about regarding my son and my nieces. How is writing the truth about their experiences in any way considered to be "wholly uninformative?"

  38. Hear! Hear!
    Thank You Dr. Witt.

  39. Thank you Dr. Whitt! I was at the hearings yesterday and was astounded by how the opposition to this bill misrepresented their qualifications and backgrounds (for example -- a chiropractor introduced herself to the committee as a "a genetic and environmental toxin researcher", the numerous naturopaths who claimed to have gone to medical school, etc), not to mention their untruths regarding the proven science and public health benefits of immunizations. The right to deny vaccines for your own child does not extend to the right to endanger other children in the public school classroom.

  40. I'm not against vaccines, but don't tell me they're 100 percent safe. That's an outright lie. Since 1988 the federal government has paid out 4 billion dollars to people harmed by vaccines. Go to the website. Look at the facts. Parents and individuals rights should not be usurped by the government. If your ok with vaccines then by all means, get them. I did and my children did. I appreciate that as a parent I was able to make the decision. I also appreciate the right of others to opt out. I don't call them stupid or foolish or uninformed. We are free people not subjects.

  41. Just a little perspective for those who like to use the "Big Pharma" conspiracy as a justification for questioning vaccines:

    The cost of a tetanus shot: $25-$60

    The cost of anti-tetanus immunoglobulin: $100-$200

    Additional costs of treatment for tetanus when not vaccinated (which includes other medications developed by "big pharma"): $15,000 - $800,000+

    I use this example, because the case of the boy in Oregon has been in the news recently and illustrates quite effectively just how costly vaccine-preventable illness can be.

    Having a large un-vaccinated population seems to be much more financially lucrative. So, I'm going to say that the whole theory that vaccines are a plot by "Big Pharma" to rake in the dough is completely absurd.

  42. I worked with a man who got mumps at 14. He lost his hearing and all his hair: no eyelashes, no eyebrows, no hair anywhere. He said he was vaccinated as a child, but thinks it didn't work. I'm a firm believer in vaccines.

  43. My sincere appreciation to Dr. Whitt for his article. As another pediatrician in this community, I too have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of vaccine-preventable disease. I appreciate the educated and articulate posts from my friends, colleagues and fellow citizens posted above in support of vaccinations.

    There are a number of questions to be considered when discussing the topic of this bill. One is, of course, the overall safety and efficacy of vaccines, which as discussed above, is really not a "debate", but rather an established fact. They work well, they save lives, and serious adverse events, while possible, are rare. No, vaccines are not 100% safe; very little is.

    The bigger question in my mind is the role that the government should play in creating laws pertaining to personal health decisions. One might argue, and some do, that the government has no role in such decisions. But we as a country, and as a community, long ago decided that one of the primary roles of our government is to create laws to protect its citizens from harm, even if such laws impinge upon some aspects of our personal freedom. As an example, we have laws prohibiting the smoking of cigarettes in public, as this is harmful to others. We have other laws requiring that children wear seatbelts while in vehicles. And laws prohibiting weapons on planes.

    LD798 is an example of a law protecting public health. I would love to think such a law is not needed. That we, as a community that values the lives of our children and the future of humanity, are willing to accept the small risk of harm that vaccines do pose, in order to achieve the "herd immunity" necessary to keep diseases like polio, diptheria and measles at bay. But the sad truth is that as the collective memory of the horrors posed by such diseases fade, so too does the communal effort, and willingness, to take small personal risks in order to protect all of us. And therefore, the government MUST follow its mandate- to protect the greater good of society- and pass such laws as LD798.

    Thank you Dr. Whitt for taking the time to advocate for the children of Maine, and for having the courage to speak the truth and stand up for our beliefs.

    Lorien Batt, MD

    p.s. A big thanks to Scott Erb for his Shamrock shake analogy. I love it.

  44. And just to clarify, since some posting above do not seem to realize this, LD798 does not "force" parents to immunize their children. It simply makes full vaccination a requirement for entry to public school. "Public" being the key word in that phrase.

  45. Most kids are in public school. Many parents are not able to homeschool nor would it be best for their child/family. If this bill passes, you will have parents telling them that their child has had an adverse reaction that is not tolerable. Will you sign that medical exemption or will you throw it back at parents with the shamrock shake analogy? (A similar one was used on us once.) Because if you are not going to take parents' concerns seriously enough, then parents will be forced (or left with virtually no alternative) to vaccinate in order for their child to attend school. Will you take responsibility for any vaccine damage in that scenario?

    What will be next? Will patients be kicked out of the practice? Will vaccines like HPV and influenza and Hep A become mandatory? This is what is meant by a slippery slope and something that pits pediatricians against parents. Continued education and a spirit of partnership is a better route.

  46. I actually had to go out and get a shamrock shake after posting that example yesterday!

    Two issues seem salient: Are vaccines 100% safe? People have reactions to lots of things - peanuts can kill some people. I suspect nothing in this world is 100% safe for everyone. There are even people with allergic reactions to water, which is the essence of life! I've read that for every 1 million vaccines there are one or two allergic reactions. That's very low, but in a country with nearly 400 million, there could be a number of such reactions. Still, vaccines are probably safer than most of the foods we eat (which are loaded with chemicals which have received far less scrutiny than vaccines).

    Second: government power. I sympathize with the proponents of the bill - it's well intentioned and defensible public policy. It is my own idiosyncratic political view that expanding government power over personal lives has dangers often overlooked. I often think as a society we've become so focused on being "safe" that people fear risk. Of course, I just finished listening to a lecture series on the Black Death of the 1300's when half the population of Europe was killed - all because they lacked antibiotics! I don't want that level of risk!

  47. Vaccines are NOT always 100% safe. This is a known fact. Hence, the laundry list of warnings and risks in the pamphlets offered with vaccinations. Most people who are pro-vaccine either have a dogmatic belief in benevolence of our government or have no idea what is actually in vaccines.
    Many people reference science yet...the science isn't all there. Example: The CDC recommends pregnant women receive a flu vaccine. How many studies have been done on this? Zero. No research to study the potential adverse effects of flu vaccines on pregnant women. With that said, I am mostly PRO-vaccine. I believe many of the pros outweigh the cons. But I think it's up to an individual to make that choice.

    I DO NOT support the bill LD 798. The government has no right to force a substance into a person's body. I believe a child does have every right to a public education. Not every house hold has the capability to have a "stay at home" parent or can afford the enormous burden of private schooling. Many people think this is a "choice" but it is not. If it was, than we should all have a "choice" on whether to pay taxes towards public schools. Fact is if your not allowed to attend public school than your parents shouldn't be forced to pay taxes towards public schooling. Now how many feathers would that rustle up?

  48. Dr. Batt, when reading your post, I feel that you are good-hearted and have the well-being of society in mind. But I want to highlight part of one sentence that you put forth.

    "That we, as a community that values the lives of our children and the future of humanity, are willing to accept the small risk of harm that vaccines do pose,..."

    How do you have the ability to judge just what is a "small risk?" You admit that vaccines are not 100% safe, and that is true. The earlier post by @Eddie exemplifies how risky vaccines actually have been for the public over the past 30 years. The fact that the government has paid out over $4 billion, while at the same time making it illegal for vaccine victims to sue pharmaceutical companies, shows that for some people in the population, vaccines are substantially risky. And speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that no amount of money can compensate you for having your good health ripped away from you for life.

    If the child of someone you don't know has been injured by a vaccine, and your child has not been, then you would probably look at the injury as a "small risk." However, if you are the person who has been injured, or it is your child who has been injured, then you are faced with a real-life burden of heavy suffering, and maybe even financial calamity as well.

    It's like the headlines we read, such as, "32 Killed in Syrian Bombing Raid." Those 32 people have been killed in a foreign country, so to many people here in the USA, the Syrian victims are just a statistic, and are out of the bounds of our reality. However, if you are a Syrian who is living under those falling bombs, it is like having to live through Armageddon. Not to mention the consequences you must live with if you survive the bombs with severe, life-changing wounds.

    I dislike very much the idea of people having to be forced by the government to take on a potentially severe health risk. It seems more and more like the USA is turning into the USSA. You say, Dr. Batt, that nobody is "forcing" kids to go to public school. For many families who may want to protect their children from vaccines, home schooling is not a financially viable option. The inflationary policies of our Federal government over the past 48 years have forced most families to need 2 incomes to survive. So not every family can afford to have a parent stay home and teach their children. And home schooling is expensive in its own right. My wife home schooled our sons, and it cost us anywhere from $1500 to $3500 a year to do so, depending on how many of our kids were in school. That was in addition to paying our property taxes into the RSU9 school system.

    So I ask people who are pro-vaccine to stop saying that there is "no debate," and that there should be no opposition to vaccines allowed. It makes you look very cold and callous when it comes to viewing the suffering of people whom you don't know. Hopefully, you or your child will never become a statistic yourselves.

  49. If this law passes will price controls be included ? Or is this a clever marketing campaign by big pharma to make this mandatory and then jack the prices up

  50. Thank you Mike Martin! I wrote a comment saying pretty much what you are saying but it was not published, maybe just due to the "tone' of it. But ditto on your post, as that is what I was trying to convey as well, that the US is quickly becoming the USSA.