Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oklahoman Editorial on SB 1407 - Vaccine Bill

Something to make you throw up your morning coffee
Thu March 20, 2008
Breeding fear? Leave medicine to the pros
The Oklahoman Editorial

LAWMAKERS have plenty to do when it comes to divvying up the state budget and setting public policy to deal with pressing state issues. They don't need to play doctor, too. Senators approved a bill that would limit the amount of mercury in vaccines offered to children and pregnant women. Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, said he wants to make sure fears that vaccines — more specifically a mercury preservative — may cause autism don't cause parents to forgo immunizations.

Unfortunately, his bill could do just that. Several studies and reports have found no link between the preservative thimerosal and autism. The implication that the two are connected could breed the very fear Gumm seeks to dispel.State health officials likewise worry such a law would cause parents to shy away from vaccines that have saved many children from serious illness and even death.

"I'm sure there was very good intent,” said Dr. Kristy Bradley, epidemiologist with the state Health Department. "But if it restricts our ability to offer vaccines, then we would not be in favor of it.”Bradley said the preservative is no longer in most childhood vaccines, and it's being phased out of production in flu vaccines. But she said the production capacity for mercury-free flu vaccines can't yet keep up with demand.

Gumm's law allows for an exemption in the case of an actual or potential public health emergency.We've no doubt Gumm's motives are pure. This is an emotional issue for many parents, who would do well to inform themselves about vaccines and the risks. But in this case, it's not wise or necessary for lawmakers to act based on the feared but unproven link between vaccines and autism. This proposal could have unintended consequences. We'd rather lawmakers leave weighty medical issues to the health care professionals.

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