Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Joins Vaccination Debate In Montpelier
The Vermont Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon was the scene of a showdown over the state's mandatory immunization law.
The issue is whether lawmakers should support a bill that removes a parent's right not to vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons.
The biggest public hearing room at the Statehouse was not large enough to accommodate all of the people who wanted to attend a special hearing held by the House Health Care committee.
The reason for the huge crowd was the presence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Attorney General, U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
Kennedy told the committee that he is "pro-vaccination" and has had his children immunized. But he believes that all parents should be allowed to make this decision for themselves.
Kennedy said it's no longer possible to trust information about vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control. He described the CDC "as a corrupt agency that is a cesspool" because, he says, it's in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry.
"The regulatory agency [CDC] that's supposed to protect us from the industry it regulates has become a sock puppet of the industry that it's supposed to regulate." - Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
"The regulatory agency that's supposed to protect us from the industry it regulates has become a sock puppet of the industry that it's supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “It's a classic captive agency. It's become a subsidiary of Big Pharma."
Kennedy said given this reality, parents need to be able to make decisions that affect the health of their children.
"The only thing left that protects that child from that company, the only barrier standing, is the parent. And now they want to take the parent away,” he said.
Burlington doctor Mia Hockett offered lawmakers a very different perspective. She wants to eliminate the philosophical exemption, and she argued that a 2012 decision by the House not to take this action was a big mistake. A bill passed by the Senate this year removes the philosophical exemption.
"By not removing the exemption, in essence it was a validation that people on the other side, [that] their fear-mongering, their pseudoscience, their misinformation campaign, was valid,” Hockett said.
Hockett is the mother of young daughter who has leukemia. She says children with compromised immune systems are put at a significant health risk by children who have not been vaccinated.
"I'm not here trying to get every other kid vaccinated because of my kid. I'm here to speak about it as an important issue. And my opinion is informed by me being a doctor." - Dr. Mia Hockett
“I'm not here trying to get every other kid vaccinated because of my kid. I'm here to speak about it as an important issue. And my opinion is informed by me being a doctor,” she said. “And the risk is real. These are deadly diseases."
The House Health Care committee plans to take several additional days of testimony before voting on the Senate bill.