The Greater Good of Vermont. Who Decides?

by Jennifer Stella,  03/09/2012

The “vaccine bill” has arrived at the foothills of the Green Mountain State, the “Healthiest US State” two years running. This designation, from America’s Health Rankings, is something that Governor Shumlin, and many of us other Vermonters, have been openly proud of.  Interestingly, the report cites Vermont’s 91.2% immunization coverage and low incidence of infectious disease.


Despite this, the VT Senate passed S199, a bill to strip the historical philosophical exemption from parents with school-aged children. “The greater good” and abysmally low vaccination rates according to a confusing CDC wish list of vaccines not even required for VT, were cited as key reasons for the crushing 25-4 vote.

This leads to some important questions.  Shall we measure ourselves against an impossible standard of “recommendations” instead of actual performance? Which is more important for the so-called greater good: An ever-more perfect vaccination rate, or a child’s education in their community school?

We are certainly not in a crisis of epidemic and life threatening proportions. Why such a radical and rapid change in Vermont law?  Removing the philosophical exemption means that Vermont will set sail against the winds of it’s parenting generation, and cast aside the philosophy of conscientious objection, first coined during the mass smallpox vaccinations and later used for war objectors. Should the religious exemption also be removed, which is a possibility due to court challenge, Vermont will fall out of step with the majority of states in the USA.  The philosophical objection is currently available to 50 percent of the U.S. population and the religious exemption available to all but WV and MS.

The passage of this bill would certainly be a boost to already sky-high pharmaceutical profits due to vaccines. The trade off is a limit on our parental rights to medical decisions for our children, and the end result will be further declining enrollment in our treasured schools.  Removal of parental rights and exclusion of children from school does not sound like the bright future I have in my heart of hearts and in my mind’s eye for my children and for Vermont.

Thinking about the greater good, “The Greater Good” film was recently released and is being screened all over the country. This film looks behind the fear, hype and politics that have polarized the vaccine debate in America today. The film re-frames the emotionally charged issue and offers, for the first time, the opportunity for a rational and scientific discussion on how to create a safer and more effective vaccine program. Keep your eyes open and ready to see it in these #vtcommons soon.

The tide seems to be turning against vaccine mandates driven by corporate greed and further whittling away at our rights as citizens. Vermont has a well-established culture of tolerance towards difference in opinion and behavior, and is well on the way to say “no more” to Corporate Personhood.  We teach our children that we are all in the same boat, together (in fact this was a prominent theme in our children’s Bread and Puppet performance last week at the Waitsfield Elementary School).

Perhaps Vermont should turn this boat around, and keep our philosophical sensibilities intact.