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More than 500 health freedom advocates, including medical doctors, religious leaders, parents and community members, provided online testimony July 12 opposing two Massachusetts bills they argued would infringe on parental rights, religious freedoms, education rights, bodily sovereignty and informed consent.

House Bill 2411, sponsored by Rep. Andres X. Vargas (D), would repeal religious exemptions for students in daycare, K-12 or college in Massachusetts.

Senate Bill 1517, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca L. Rausch (D), and its companion, House Bill 2271,  sponsored by Reps. Paul J. Donato (D) and Vargas (D), would allow children of any age to be vaccinated without parental knowledge or consent, even if the child is intellectually disabled.

The state of emergency for COVID-19 ended in June for Massachusetts, yet the statehouse remains closed and the hearing was held online. There have been no other recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the state.

Evidence proving vaccines can cause harm ‘buried in vaccine court vaults’

House Bill 2411, “An Act Relative to Vaccines and Preventing Future Disease Outbreaks,” represents an attempt by Massachusetts to follow in the footsteps of California, Maine, New York and most recently Connecticut by repealing religious exemptions.

The state of Massachusetts has some of the highest uptake rates in the country and fewer than 1% of school-aged children file a religious exemption. According to the Department of Public Health, the religious exemption is most often used to forgo one or two vaccines in children who are otherwise vaccinated.

Opponents of the bill testified how vaccines have caused serious injuries and death, in many instances within their own families.

Here are a few highlights from testimony presented July 12 against House Bill 2411:

  • Harry Tembenis, father of a son who died after receiving a vaccine, shared his personal story: “I have spoken in multiple states on vaccine bills. As my wife, Gina, and I achieved a victory in the U.S. Vaccine Court stating vaccines did cause our son injury and ultimate death, sitting in these legislative hearings I keep hearing ‘the science is settled, and vaccines are safe’. If only the legislators knew they were getting only half the story. The evidence which proves vaccines can and do cause harm is buried in the vaccine court vaults, as everything is sealed. As our son died from his vaccine and we won our case, I am free to speak about our case … but I am limited to only three minutes to try and detail 7 years of our experience…”
  • Dr. Aaron Lewis, pastor and prelate of Family of God Churches International, testified that as the son of enslaved Africans and grandson of a Sephardic Jewish doctor, he understands “all too well the rich history and tragedies of both my African and my Jewish peoples.”

Lewis said:

“One of the primary ways that both Black and Jewish people were enslaved and tortured is through language. Legislators created phrases that pretended to secure the rights of the masses. Actually, the words were only a precursor to mass destruction. Vaccine equity is the new word that will cause hate, violence, death — all spread through fear and propaganda. It is intrinsically and overtly racist and evil to use the phrase vaccine equity as it is totalitarian for anyone to decide what is equitable for my family and me.

”Furthermore, equity is not forced. The early slave masters sincerely believed that it was equitable to keep slavery in perpetuity for more than 400 years. Our United States Congress called all 400 years, then, an equitable experience. Can I as an elected official impose on a woman what I believe is the best drug for their health? There is no one size fits all. True vaccine equity would begin with removing indemnification from all vaccine manufacturers …

“This is a spiritual matter. To vote for this bill is the epitome of the highest levels of racist behavior and control …”.

Others who testified against House Bill 2411 shared that many of today’s vaccines use aborted fetal cell lines, including WI 38, a female, and MRC-5, a male. These immortalized cell lines can trigger chronic health conditions. Some priests and even the New Orleans archdiocese are urging Catholics to avoid the vaccines tainted with aborted cell lines.

Medical records would be hidden from parents

Under Senate Bill 1517 and its companion, House Bill 2271 —  both known as the “Community Immunity Act” — medical records would be hidden from parents so they might not ever know their children were administered a vaccine.

In their July 12 testimony against the bills, some opponents argued allowing underage children to make medical decisions for themselves is a gross violation of parental rights, and could lead to long-term risk and harm for children. Minors are not capable of performing proper risk-reward analysis to determine if taking these vaccines is appropriate or needed, critics argued, and in many cases, children aren’t aware of their full medical history, or the medical history of their families, that may prove to be a contraindication.

The “Community Immunity Act” also would limit the criteria for medical exemptions to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list that defines when vaccines should be definitively skipped.

A one-size-fits-all approach is a dangerous proposition for healthcare and defies patient-doctor relationships, critics argued. This predetermined list wouldn’t be able to take into account a patient’s full health history, including family medical history or other related factors needed to be discussed by practitioner and patient in order to fully evaluate the need for a medical exemption.

Finally, opponents said both bills would allow private daycares, schools, or camps to make their own vaccination policies, including requiring additional vaccines above and beyond those mandated by the Department of Public Health and rejecting students who use a religious exemption. This would allow the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to operate outside of the established state regulations and dictate its own vaccination policies.

Here are highlights from the 15-hour online testimony against “The Community Immunity Act”:

“Individuals and families deserve the right to their own bodies and medical consent without coercion. Education is the greatest equalizer and removing it is the biggest public health threat of all.”

  • Dr. Sylvia Fogel, psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, testified:

“Although we have the highest vaccination rates in the country, there is room to optimize, but removing the religious exemption or having DPH implement and approve exemptions is simply targeting the wrong thing with large potential downsides. Pockets of lower vaccination in our state are overwhelmingly driven by what DPH calls the ‘gap population.’ Of the 20 schools with the lowest measles immunization rates in our state, 18 have zero exemptions. And in the remaining schools, the gap is the overwhelming contributor to low rates. These lower vaccination pockets are not driven by the 1% of children using a religious exemption.”

  • Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a professor of pediatrics and neurology at UMass Medical School, testified:

“As a long-time member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Child Neurology Society, I am very pro-vaccine and recognize the importance of protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases to the greatest extent possible. At the same time, in practicing my specialty, I am also very aware of our incomplete knowledge about the risks of, and reactions to vaccines in some children.

“From my experience working with special needs children and their parents, I find these measures are unnecessary medically, and discriminatory against parental rights and the needs of vulnerable children.”

What Massachusetts residents can do to help defeat these bills:

Both bills are still in the Public Health Committee where it will take time to review them before sending them on to another committee. In Massachusetts, bills are read several times, but no date has yet been set for the next round of hearings.

In the meantime, if you live in Massachusetts, here’s how you can stay informed and get involved:

  • Follow Health Choice 4 Action Massachusetts at HealthChoice4ActionMA.org.
  • Follow Oppose Overreach on Facebook.
  • Prepare to register to testify at the next round of hearings. Legislation is read multiple times in Massachusetts so they’re will be future hearings on these same bills.

Meet, call and email your state legislators. If you don’t know who your state senator and representatives are, look them up here. Let them know you strongly oppose HB 2411 and SB 1517 and HB 2271. Share how the removal of state religious exemptions would impact your family.