State News
May 14, 2015

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., mothers square off on vaccines

By Morgan True, VTDigger.org

As the House bears down on a potential vote to remove the philosophical exemption for the immunizations required to enter school, new voices entered the polarizing debate on Tuesday, May 5. The Senate-passed bill would not remove the religious and medical exemptions to the vaccines required for school entry.

A group of mothers organized by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Vermont chapter called on House lawmakers to join their Senate colleagues, while Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and activist, urged them to keep the exemption in place.

Mia Hockett, a physician and mother of two from Burlington, says her daughter’s immune system has been compromised as a result of childhood leukemia. Hockett and several other mothers and grandmothers said they were at the Statehouse to speak up for a “silent majority” of Vermonters who want the philosophical exemption eliminated.

There are 3,479 children in Vermont covered by philosophical exemptions, which represents 3.8 percent of all students in the state, according to the Department of Health figures.

Kennedy testified that he, too, strongly supports childhood immunization—noting that all six of his children were vaccinated—but before parental choice is limited, steps must be taken to ensure vaccines are safe.

Kennedy says systemic corruption driven by the trillion dollar pharmaceutical industry has undermined the safety of vaccines in the United States.

Kennedy spoke before close to 100 people crowded into a hearing room. He makes regular public appearances to speak about his activism, and said he’s visited two other states in recent weeks to speak out against the elimination of philosophical exemptions.

There are six required vaccines in Vermont: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; hepatitis B; chickenpox; and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

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