By Jamel Holley
As I sat in the Statehouse Assembly Chambers last month, I heard echoes from the voices of desperate parents seeking to be heard on the one parental right they have: the protection of their children!
In the mixture of these echoes were those I heard saying, “Protect our freedom and religion; it’s our right.”
And then I saw the faces of the children, tightly wrapped up in warm winter clothing for long hours into the late night. Some of those children – sadly – were injured from vaccines.
Parents, children, clergy, elected officials, and supporters all united – side by side – gathered by the thousands, inside, outside and around the public areas of the Statehouse.
This drama unfolded following weeks of vocal outrage. I received more than 3,000 emails opposing a proposed bill that would allow state-mandated vaccinations for children, while stripping the law of a religious and medical exemption clause.
The Assembly narrowly passed the bill, funded and fast-tracked by the pharma industry, over my cries of opposition.
I argued that my fellow lawmakers did not offer enough open public debate, nor do I believe that government officials are entitled to remove the right of a parent to protect a child. I also don’t believe government has any say in regards to an individual’s religious practice, except in the case of a true emergency.
Appearing in the last desperate attempt to move this bill, a Republican senator proposed a segregation amendment that would mandate all public schools and public day care centers require vaccination. Families that can afford to attend private schools and private daycares would not have to follow the mandate. In the State Senate, the bill fell short.
It is 2020. How can any Legislature in this country, under the Constitution, entertain such legislation?
Then I realized there is more to this!
We began this debate about the health and wellness of all children. So why would we then entertain a segregated piece of legislation that would exclude certain students. This solely moved the debate from the overall health concern to an even larger question: Why is this hotly-contested bill being rushed through at all?
I think we can all agree if it’s about the health and wellness of our young ones, there should be a majority of support, not just relying on one majority vote in the legislature.
Legislation to mandate state vaccinations are quickly moving through legislatures in other states, too, including Connecticut, Virginia, Colorado and Illinois. The requirement already exists in California and New York. All of these states have legislatures controlled by Democrats.
There is this momentum, but there are many public facts that should give us pause. No one denies that vaccines can cause severe injury and death – indeed the federal 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act specifically provides compensation for anaphylaxis, encephalopathy or brain injury, chronic arthritis, paralysis and death. Victims have proven many other adverse effects in the compensation program as well, including severe allergies, asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, lupus, multiple sclerosis and others.
Studies by independent scientists have validated some of these associations. For instance, a Canadian 2008 study on asthma risk and the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine in the Journal of Allergy Clinical Immunology suggested that merely delaying the DPT shot by two months reduced childhood diagnosis of asthma by half. An article by scientists Gallagher and Goodman published in the peer reviewed literature found a nine-fold association between the hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in boys aged 1-9. A study of infant mortality, a key measure of public health, found that countries, like the US, with more infant vaccines have higher death rates in infants in the first year of life than countries with fewer infant vaccines.
These are just a few of thousands of studies on the unintended consequences of vaccines. But for me, the reality hit home when I heard from hundreds of parents and their children: the real victims in all of this.
And there were other citizens, pleading to keep the religious freedoms afforded to them in the Bill of Rights.
Then the bombshell: The “vaccine chairwoman” at Merck Pharmaceutical Co. cashing in her second $9.1 million worth of shares.
This information then led me to the campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, doled out to my colleagues in all these states pushing for legislation.
Let me be clear: I’m not against vaccines. I believe in medicine for the health of our state.
However, I do not believe that elected officials should be overreaching into the households of parents who are entitled to make informed medical decisions for their children. Nor do I believe I should be placed in a position to remove a religious exemption for those individuals that chose to exercise that constitutional right. I stand pro choice!!
So if this debate should continue, I am even more compelled to side with the people. In such an effort, I will be introducing a bipartisan bill in the Assembly that fully protects children and holds government accountable for any over-reaching state mandates.
I join Senate Republican sponsors Mike Testa and Joseph Pennacchio on S-1734 that requires health care practitioners to provide information to a patient or the patient’s guardian at least 24 hours prior to the administration of a vaccine. That information must include a copy of the insert for the vaccine produced by the manufacturer for inclusion in the vaccine’s packaging and list of the vaccine ingredients produced by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
S-1791 would make the state liable for damages stemming from certain vaccine-related injuries if the vaccination is mandated by state law, rule, or regulation as a condition of attendance at a child care center, preschool program, elementary of secondary school, or institution of higher education, or by emergency declaration, at the time of the vaccine’s administration.
An Assembly Resolution is also pending introduction, urging the President of the United States and Congress to repeal the federal National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which has shielded vaccine manufacturers from liability, removed economic and legal incentives for companies to develop safe vaccines, and made it difficult for those injured by vaccines to receive compensation.
It is for all the above reasons I stand to protect children, parental choice and remain in the front lines of protecting all individuals to exercise their religious freedom, and to protect their children’s heath as best as they see fit.
It is with great hope that all my colleagues join in this important fight for families and freedom.
Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) represents Elizabeth, Roselle, Union and Hillside in the New Jersey General Assembly.