AUGUSTA – A month before Mainers vote in the primaries, both sides of the immunization debate launched their campaigns at the Maine State House.
In October, the “Yes on 1” group got enough signatures to get vaccines on the ballot.
They want to overturn a new law, signed by Governor Janet Mills in May, that bans all non-medical exemptions for vaccinating school children.
“The law is nothing more than a massively grotesque governmental overreach masquerading as public health,” said Rep. Heidi Sampson, (R – Alfred).
An hour later in the same room, Maine Families for Vaccines held their own press conference, urging Mainers to vote “no” on Question 1.
They rejected the other side’s claim they’re backed by big pharma, and said they are backed by concerned parents and Maine based organizations.
“We were taught about these diseases that I thought I would never see,” said Amy Madden, M.D., with the Maine Medical Association. She said last year because of outbreaks across the country they had to start preparing for such diseases, like measles.
Maine law used to allow philosophical and religious exemptions. Those against the new legislation feel it will prevent some kids from attending school and that it hinders medical freedom.
“It’s what the medical community is built upon, having that informed consent among a doctor and a patient to weigh out the risks and benefits,” said Julie Anderson, a registered nurse with Yes on 1.
But some parents fear unvaccinated students put their own kids at risk, like one Waterville mother whose son’s medical condition make vaccines less effective for him.
“I was floored, that version of the law had no mention of protecting vulnerable kids like my son, it was all about these loopholes,” said Sarah Staffiere, with Maine Families for Vaccines.
Mainers will have a chance to vote on Question 1 on March 3rd.