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EDITORIAL: Preserve Parental Right to Choose

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by Nat Frothingham

Author, activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visited the Vermont State House on May 5 and gave testimony on the current Vermont vaccination debate in a packed hearing room before the House Committee on Health Care.

Kennedy is widely recognized by many Americans being the son of his namesake father, the slain U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the assassinated former U.S President John F. Kennedy.

In addition to his family connections, Kennedy has made a name for himself as an environmental and health advocate and the writer of books with such titles as:  “The Riverkeepers:” (with John Cronin) (1999); “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy” “Thimerosol: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury — a Known Neurotoxin — from Vaccines” (2014).

In his 15-minute presentation to the House Committee on Health Care, Kennedy took general aim at the United States Centers for Disease Control, which he called “a troubled agency.” Then he turned his attention to the divisions of the CDC that deal with vaccines and more specifically to the advisory committee that adds vaccines to the recommended list and the advisory committee that oversees the vaccine safety.

Kennedy said that most of the people who sit on and influence the findings of these advisory committees have ties to the corporate drug and vaccine industry. He noted a U.S. law that shields vaccine companies from consumer lawsuits. He argued that epidemiological studies can be easily manipulated — as those studies were manipulated over smoking and have been manipulated since then on other public health issues. He noted the rapid rise in the number of recommended vaccines to up to 59 shots from 16 vaccines.

He also said vaccine companies spend multiple millions of dollars to promote their products in media and through their political contributions to secure legislative and Congressional influence.

“All the protections are gone,” Kennedy asserted. The Centers for Disease Control have been corrupted, said Kennedy. Drug company advertising has improperly influenced the media. Campaign contributions have swayed the U.S. Congress. “Now the only (protective) barrier standing is parents and they want to take away the parents.”

While many will differ with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in whole or in part, what seems unassailable is this. The U.S. government has a sorry track record in a whole range of consumer protection issues and the list is long:  Mine safety, Agent Orange, auto safety, nuclear power plant regulation, tobacco and health, oil tanker transport, genetically modified organisms and food contamination.

Is the rise of autism related to vaccinations? We don’t know. But let’s ask this question, “Are the proliferation of mandated vaccinations making our children healthier than they once were? Some studies conducted outside the United States show otherwise. And is the ban on suing drug companies for harmful vaccination results really in the best public interest?

For all of these reasons, at The Bridge, we argue that the Vermont House and Senate pause and reflect on the gravity of the vaccination issues. And we ask that the Vermont Legislature NOT pass a bill this session that abolishes the parental right of philosophical exemption.

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