Protection for Parents Who Have Religious or Moral Objections to Vaccination?

It seems that the US Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is “pulling a 180” and will now make efforts to enforce the protection of our rights of conscience in healthcare.  This a ray of sunshine for those with religious beliefs or moral convictions who desire the ability to make a free choice without coercion – but it should be interpreted with caution. More analysis is needed.

Search the rule and you will find ten different references to vaccination. DHHS uses the following specific language in the proposed rule, as an example of what might warrant a complaint and enforcement against entities receiving federal funding:

…being required to administer or receive certain vaccinations derived from aborted fetal tissues as a condition of work or receipt of educational services.”

It is a little known fact that in addition to viruses and bacteria, vaccines contain very small amounts of other ingredients (excipients and media) – including human diploid cells.

Parents object to vaccines for a wide variety of reasons.  In 1979, when parents first encountered the idea of compulsory schoolchild vaccination brought about by Dr. Roberta Coffin, their rights as parents to hold religious or moral objections against one or all vaccines, were protected in the form of “exemptions.”  Senators carefully crafted the wording and intended to preserve parent choice. Doctors of the time fully supported this.

Times have changed. There is no longer any liability and no consumer protection when it comes to vaccine products. When recently faced with the dilemma, our legislature and Governor failed to protect us.

It seems the pendulum may reaching the point at which it will swing in the other direction. I will await further analysis by the legal experts but it seems to me that if this rule is approved, entities tied to a Federal revenue stream who coerce parents to vaccinate against their conscience (moral or religious beliefs), could risk their funding and must place notifications to patients and providers of the civil right to conscience in healthcare decisions. And for those unlucky enough to live in California, West Virginia or Mississippi there may be hope.

The DHHS Rule proposes to treat moral or religious belief as a a civil right – much like race, color or nation of origin.

The Department proposes to uphold the maximum protection for the rights of conscience and the broadest prohibition on discrimination provided by Federal, State, or local law, as consistent with the Constitution. Where a State or local law provides as much or greater protection than Federal law for religious freedom and moral convictions, the Department will not construe Federal law to preempt or impair the application of that law, unless expressly provided.”

More information from US DHHS:

Proposed Rule by US Dept. of Health and Human Services: “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority”

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/26/2018-01226/protecting-statutory-conscience-rights-in-health-care-delegations-of-authority

DHHS SUMMARY:

In the regulation of health care, the United States has a long history of providing conscience-based protections for individuals and entities with objections to certain activities based on religious belief and moral convictions. Multiple such statutory protections apply to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, or the Department) and the programs or activities it funds or administers. The Department proposes to revise regulations previously promulgated to ensure that persons or entities are not subjected to certain practices or policies that violate conscience, coerce, or discriminate, in violation of such Federal laws. Through this rulemaking, the Department proposes to grant overall responsibility to its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for ensuring that the Department, its components, HHS programs and activities, and those who participate in HHS programs or activities comply with Federal laws protecting the rights of conscience and prohibiting associated discriminatory policies and practices in such programs and activities. In addition to conducting outreach and providing technical assistance, OCR will have the authority to initiate compliance reviews, conduct investigations, supervise and coordinate compliance by the Department and its components, and use enforcement tools otherwise available in civil rights law to address violations and resolve complaints. In order to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance and other Department funds comply with their legal obligations, the Department will require certain recipients to maintain records; cooperate with OCR’s investigations, reviews, or other enforcement actions; submit written assurances and certifications of compliance to the Department; and provide notice to individuals and entities about their conscience and associated anti-discrimination rights, as applicable.

COMMENTS:

Submit comments on or before March 27, 2018 – MUST BE identified by RIN 0945-ZA03 or Docket HHS-OCR-2018-0002,

  • You may submit electronic comments at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for the Docket ID number HHS-OCR-2018-0002. Follow the instructions for sending comments.
  • Regular, Express, or Overnight Mail:S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Attention: Conscience NPRM, RIN 0945-ZA03, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 509F, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201.
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Attention: Conscience NPRM, RIN 0945-ZA03, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 509F, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201.

~ Jennifer Stella

PS: Ginger Taylor has also written about this, here.

September 13, 2017

Meningitis Vaccines are required for Vermont College students but exemption forms are available. Are you uneasy about the role of marketing in leveraging parental fears to sell (and mandate) more vaccines? 

For Meningitis B Vaccines, Climbing Revenue, and Plenty of Skepticism – by SHEFALI LUTHRA
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/business/meningitis-b-vaccines.html (print-pdf)

….However, the headlines prompted by the 13 campus cases — which resulted in one death and one double amputation — helped reshape the financial prospects for the drugs. Some physicians and other industry experts are now growing uneasy about the role of marketing in leveraging parental fears to sell the meningitis B vaccines as well as other expensive vaccines for rare illnesses.

A complete Bexsero series costs $320. A competing vaccine for meningitis B, Trumenba, a Pfizer product, costs $345…