Letter: Vaccine concerns aren’t ‘fringe’


The word “vaccination” elicits different responses from different people (Re: The Detroit News’ Dec. 27 editorial, “Know risks before getting vaccine waiver”). For many, it is viewed as a lifesaver. Vaccines have wiped out crippling and deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. Others see vaccines as a way to immunize themselves from diseases like chickenpox, which have a much lower fatality rate than, for instance, smallpox.

But there are some people who are concerned about “adverse effects” from vaccines or have religious objections to certain vaccines, such as those developed using aborted human embryos.

These are not “fringe” concerns as some would have this issue portrayed. In 1986, the federal government passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to compensate families who experience “adverse effects” upon receiving routine immunizations as pharmaceutical companies are indemnified against lawsuits regarding vaccines. To date, approximately $3.6 billion in federal tax dollars has been paid to victims of vaccine injuries.

When the state Legislature passed the 1978 law requiring children to be vaccinated before attending school or daycare, it also stipulated that a parent could choose to decline any vaccine due to medical, religious or other convictions. It clearly outlines how a parent exercises that right, and the process doesn’t involve the health department. In 2015, that didn’t stop the Department of Health and Human Services from introducing a new regulation that required parents to listen to a one-sided lecture from a local health department official in order to obtain a vaccination waiver.

I introduced SB 299 and SB 300 to reassert legislative authority over the DHHS vaccine waiver process. As the “representatives” of the people, it is our job as legislators to ensure that our government respects the rights of those who elected us to serve them. When an agency in the executive branch exceeds its statutory authority, we need to reassert the voice of the people. That is also why I have introduced SJR M to enhance the Legislature’s ability to address such overreaches more expeditiously in the future.

There are two sides to the vaccine choice issue, and it is my sincere hope that both sides of this debate will be heard and respected.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Canton