The controversies surrounding state-mandated vaccination were reignited again Thursday during a debate when Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and challenger Republican Don Turner disagreed over letting parents have a say in their children’s health care.
In the debate, held at Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro, Turner reiterated his vote to eliminate the philosophical exemption for vaccinations three years ago.
Zuckerman, on the other hand, urged caution and parental control in the use of vaccines while affirming their benefits.
“It’s a question of whether or not government should be forcing people to accept vaccinations, especially when there’s another 250 to 300 in the pipeline from the pharmaceutical industry — the same industry that has brought us many other drugs that we have learned later, they claimed were not harmful but they’ve made themselves a lot of money and they have given us things like the opiate addiction and others,” he said.
The lieutenant governor found a middle ground between paternalistic, mandatory-vaccine officials and never-vaxxers, the vocal community of parents and others who deeply distrust the use of vaccines on their children.
“So the science behind vaccines is sound, I think vaccines do good for our communities, my daughter is vaccinated,” Zuckerman said. “But it’s a question of whether government should be forcing that onto individuals, which is different than a scientific question.”
He went on to say that the Infectious Disease Control Board of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conflicts of interest in its connections with the pharmaceutical industry.
“And so yes, like many, I do sometimes question when government agencies are a bit too infused with corporate influence with respect to some of the outcomes and decisions they make.”
After the debate, Turner issued a press release affirming his view on the state imposing vaccines on Vermonters without their consent.
“In 2015, I was proud to vote for H.95, which eliminated the philosophical exemption for vaccines with tri-partisan support,” Turner wrote. “Ensuring Vermont’s children are healthy and safe is an essential function of state government.”
He added that “mitigating the risk to public health by requiring standard immunizations is so crucial,” and characterized Zuckerman as having disputed “the science of whether vaccines are safe.”
In Vermont, parents are not allowed to exempt their children from vaccines unless they file a religious exemption form. Prior to 2015, parents could exempt a child by voicing philosophical opposition to their use.
Turner challenged the notion that the Center for Disease Control is overly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.
“If Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman has any demonstrable proof that the CDC’s decisions or actions are influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, he should disclose that evidence,” he said.
While the CDC maintains that serious vaccine reactions are rare, they admit they do occur, and are documented via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Vaccine Adverse Effects Reactions System (VAERS). Since that program went into effect in 1988, over $3.5 billion has been paid out to families for reactions to vaccines.
More recent VAERS data indicates that for the first eight months of the VAERS 2017 fiscal year, $142 million had been paid out for damages. VAERS was first set up as part of the National Childhood Injury Act of 1986, which also shielded vaccine manufacturers from vaccine injury lawsuits.
The exchange quickly sparked anti-Zuckerman responses on Twitter.
Dammit Zuckerman, I thought we had gotten your head out of the pseudoscience and back on track when it comes to vaccines. How about if you go spend a week with the scientists & clinicians of the Vermont Vaccine Center & see what vaccines really are about: saving lives #vtpoli
— RowgirlVT (@RowGirlVT) November 2, 2018
The Vermont College GOP accused the lieutenant governor of being “anti-science.”
Wow. Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman just reiterated his support for permitting parents to not safely vaccinate their children. He also accused the CDC of being biased by corporate interests. Anti-science much? #vtpoli #vt
— VT College GOP (@VTCollegeGOP) November 1, 2018
In 2016, the Vermont Health Department abandoned the nasal spray flu vaccine FluMist after the vaccine proved to be 3 percent effective, or less, starting with the 2013-2014 flu season. The department wasted more than $600,000 on doses over a three-year period.