Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Is there a pill for that?

Al Diamon

I hate Big Pharma.

You hate Big Pharma.

Everybody hates Big Pharma because it’s so easy to hate.

Pharmaceutical executives revel in raising prices on lifesaving medicines for no other reason than that they can. They show no remorse when it’s discovered they lied about the addictive nature of the pills they pushed on people in pain. They display not a twinge of conscience when they dump unsafe medications on third-world countries.

If there’s an opportunity to screw over Big Pharma, count me in.

Unfortunately, Question 1 on Maine’s March ballot is not that opportunity. In spite of all those roadside signs from proponents of this measure calling on us to “Reject Big Pharma,” this People’s Veto has nothing to do with that malevolent entity.

Question 1 is about vaccines, specifically stopping a state law that says your kid has to have a few of them before attending public school, unless a doctor says a medical condition makes that inadvisable. This law, passed by the Legislature last year, removed an exemption that allowed parents to refuse to immunize their children for religious or philosophical reasons.

It’s unclear to me what God or Jean Paul Sartre might have against preventing communicable diseases, but suffice it to say, the parents who have opted out on these grounds – about 5.6 percent of kindergartners in 2018 – are fanatic about their right to expose other people’s kids to all manner of diseases. During debate on the bill, Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, told the Portland Press Herald, the measure attacked “two bedrock foundations of America: religious freedom and parental rights.”

Strangely enough, Conley and the other anti-vaxxers only thought to mention Big Pharma as a reason to vote against the measure after they lost in the Legislature and discovered while collecting signatures to block the law’s implementation that a lot of people think vaccinating kids is a sensible thing to do. In the aftermath of that revelation, they needed a clever campaign gimmick, and dreamed up attacking the pharmaceutical creeps as their new marketing strategy.

In reality, the drug merchants have next to nothing to do with this issue. As the Bangor Daily News reported on Jan. 27, vaccines are a tiny segment of that industry, about 3 percent of total revenues. And the companies that make the shots – Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline – aren’t among the major players in the opioid scandal. Nor have drug companies donated any significant amount of money to the pro-vax campaign.

Big Pharma, it seems, is a Big Bogeyman.

So, let’s deal with something approaching facts. I can sympathize with parents who don’t want to be compelled to deal with screaming brats after their urchins have had needles inserted in their arms. In addition, my libertarian leanings make me automatically defiant whenever anybody in authority tells me I’ve got to do anything. But I try to temper that tendency with a modicum of common sense.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this state has the worst rate in the nation for cases of pertussis or whooping cough. Measles, considered all but wiped out a decade ago, has been reappearing with frightening regularity. Likewise, mumps and chicken pox. Children with compromised immune systems are increasingly at risk of infection from diseases that shouldn’t even be around anymore.

This ought to come as no surprise. In order to effectively prevent most childhood illnesses, the vaccination rate needs to be above 95 percent. Half the kindergartens in Maine are currently below that threshold, almost entirely because of the religious and philosophical exemptions.

Opposing mandatory immunizations isn’t just an unsound health policy. It’s also a selfish one. It means that when a kid who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons gets sick, the responsibility lies with the parents who refused to inoculate their children for reasons mostly based on myths, misinformation or malicious intent.

In that, these people bear an uncanny resemblance to the CEOs of Big Pharma.

Stick it to me by emailing

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19 Responses »

  1. Big Pharma is the latest target of the SJWs, they blame big pharma, not taking into account the billions of people helped by their products every day. Just like gun owners, makers and the NRA, the SJWs just love blaming the source rather than blaming the individual for how they use or misuse the product.

    In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, SCOTUS ruled that States have the right and authority to protect themselves from disease and invasion.

    SCOTUS also upheld Zucht v. King, in which it ruled that any public school can refuse entry to any un-vaccinated children.

    Next is the Harm Principle, "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." This is actually the basis of quite a few laws, including the 14th amendment. Take this coronavirus for example, it's contagious and spreads quickly, if you have it, you are not free to wander among people who don't have it and cause them harm, for reference see section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264)

  2. Thank you Al for bringing this to people's attention. The group behind #1 are deliberately misleading the public to get what they want. Shame on them. Everyone has to step up and do their part to protect public health. Nobody likes shots, but it is necessary to prevent serious diseases from spreading. Protect our kids. Vote NO on Question 1.

  3. I completely agree with Al on this one and (almost) agree with Hrtlss as well. The anti-vaccination supporters are not Social Justice Warriors but are science deniers. Vaccination has saved countless childrens' lives by preventing chilhood diseases. I am old enough to remember the polio epidemics and measles was a constant danger. When insufficient numbers of children are vaccinated disease, especially measles and polio, can spread like wildfire. Recently 80 people died of measles in Samoa, and there was a large outbreak of measles in New York among the Hasidic population who, depite no religeous prohibition, did not vaccinate thier children.

    Just like it is not against the law to get drunk but illegal to drive and indanger others while under the influence, it is up to the parent if they want to put their child at risk by not vaccinating them, but not OK to put other children at risk by sending the electively unvaccinated child to school.

    Proposition 1 has nothing to do with Big Pharma and everything to do with putting innocent children at risk. Please vote no.

    Jay Naliboff MD

  4. I agree with Dr. Naliboff and others, as well as Al himself! This is not about Big Pharma. This is about 200+ years of science showing repeatedly that vaccines are safe and save lives.

  5. This is right on. You don't have the right to make your kids into unnecessary measles vectors at school. Choose not to get vaccinated, choose not to go to school. It could kill a kid with a compromised immune system or a yet to be vaccinated baby sister.

  6. Thank you, Al!
    To show the true and stark reality of refusing vaccines, I've thought perhaps wordless signs of small children with polio, standing with their crutches, in wheelchairs or in iron lungs, should be placed near the misleading signs. A picture is worth a thousand words.

  7. Someone should tell the “asylum seekers” coming in. There was a chicken pox outbreak in Portland just after they started disappearing from the housing they were at. I emailed Strimling and he obviously lied to me when he said they were being quarantined and vaccinated. My kids are vaccinated only to the requirement of the schools. They will not receive the “cancer preventing” vaccine nor does anyone in my family get the “flu” vaccine. Some people here reading this may want to hear the other sides story and look at the evidence they have that warrants their concerns with vaccines. Big pharma may not be the bad guy here but they are still making bank on vaccines just as they are opioids and other meds.

  8. I am old enough to remember schoolmates in the 1950’s who disappeared into the hospital and another with “infantile paralysis” who wore heavy leg braces that clanked and squeaked as he struggled to negotiate the stairs up to the second floor classrooms at the old Central School in Wilton. Mr. Sproul would carry him if he was available, but often he was not. The boy, whose name I sadly can’t remember, tried not to but sometimes he cried with the pain and humiliation. Dr. Salk’s name was revered as the man who saved millions of children by developing the polio vaccines. We lined up willingly for the shots because we could see the consequences of refusal with our own eyes every day.

    Please vote no. The “big Pharma” argument is a fake.

  9. I don't understand how the CCL and its supporters can get away with labeling this anti-vax referendum as "reject big pharma." This is so misleading, dishonest and downright "un-Christian." It ought not be legal to attempt to fool the public in this way. I, too remember the scourge of infectious childhood diseases that were mostly eradicated by vaccines. Parents should have a lot to say with regard to their children, but not to place the well being of other folks children in jeopardy.

    I surely hope the people throughout the state show wisdom to see through this smoke screen and vote NO to put this to rest, for the health and well being of our kids and grandkids.

  10. Sure ...go for it... We are all aware of what a great job they have done with the flu shot... no one getting the flu and dying in Maine anymore..

  11. You hit the nail on the head -- the antivaccine movement behind the Yes campaign is rooted in selfishness and a disregard for others. They have outsourced risk to everyone else for far too long. People who choose to not vaccinate their kids should be the ones to bear the consequences of that decision, rather than the most vulnerable members of the community.

  12. WOW I agree with Al, never thought that would happen.

  13. Like I said before my kids are vaccinated. So let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. If only 3 in 10 (just random numbers) kids are unvaccinated how are they putting the other 7 at risk ? The problem with these diseases that have recently flared up seems to be coming from outside the US seems how we haven’t had these problems for years now. Perhaps look at what is causing the recent outbreaks because I’m sure it’s not our young kids. BTW I don’t want to hear how they are melting out of glaciers. The glaciers are actually growing despite what some people like Greta the great might be telling you folks.

  14. Force vaccines or you get sent to a leper colony with no schools.
    Or sent to Hades for being "UN"Christian. (According to Chief Jay Strongbow). (I didn't know a Chief had that authority).

    But if you're convicted criminal from another country here illegally,
    Feel free to roam our country.
    We won't turn you in.

    This isn't about Public Safety for many of you.
    You're just against anything the CCL is for.
    Whoopie Dingle.
    So be it.

    Vote your conscience.
    God Bless America.

  15. Have to agree with Al.Would go one step further and make world travelers a little more responsible for the health baggage they bring back to our country. Our health community work hard to drive out some of the serious disease I remember as a kid. Been there done that. Its no fun and no joke.When the time comes will do my part to help them help me.

  16. For "Public Safety", a question-
    Are YOU vaccinated? Did YOU make the choice to avoid serious illnesses that can be avoided? Did your parents make that choice for you? I'm just curious- so many anti-vaccination advocates seem to be happy enough in their own personal bubble of "I was already vaccinated before I woke up to the conspiracy", but they really want to be sure of their rights to expose my kids (some of whom are too young to be fully vaccinated).

  17. For the record, I believe in vaccines, I've had my kids vaccinated, and I think the science is clear that they are not dangerous. Yet I still am uncomfortable with making it required to get vaccines to go to school - many parents truly believe that the vaccines can harm their kids, and especially the number of vaccines has gone way up. I do not think there have been outbreaks at schools due to unvaccinated children.

    I know it's unpopular to oppose the mandate, and I agree that the campaign is being deceptive - it is not about big pharma. Yet still I worry that we're letting fear lead to a sacrifice of freedom. I know most disagree, and I respect that. I'm still uncomfortable with the mandates.

  18. @Scott Erb:

    So I presume you have a problem with, e.g., mandatory auto insurance, car seat belts, schooling, social security contributions, etc., etc.

    Your concern about 'freedom' makes no sense.

  19. There is something far more intrusive about medical procedures than wearing a seat belt or paying taxes. I worry about this denying some kids a public education because of their parents beliefs. After all, one can be concerned about freedom without being an anarchist.