My 3/13/19 testimony on vaccine exemptions to the Maine joint Education and Cultural Affairs Committee

My name is Dr. Meryl Nass. I am here today to oppose LD798 and support LD987.

  • ·       I am a
    physician in Ellsworth, Maine.
  • ·       I
    graduated from MIT and the University of Mississippi School of Medicine.
  • ·       In 2010, I was the chair of a commission established by you, the
    legislature, "to protect the lives and health of members of the Maine
    National Guard." 
  • ·       I have testified to 6 Congressional committees, primarily on
    anthrax vaccine and Gulf War Syndrome, and the permanent injuries suffered by
    service-members who received military vaccines of questionable quality.

There is no crisis of infectious diseases caused by
lack of vaccinations, here in Maine or in the rest of the United States. 
The rates of vaccine preventable diseases are
approximately the same as always.  I have attached the official
statistics, so please check me on this!
According to the
CDC, effective vaccine exemption rates in Maine are not higher than they have
been, and they are consistently better than the US average
truth, not widely known, is that immunocompromised children are not catching
diseases from their unvaccinated classmates, and they are not dying.  Look
at the numbers.

diseases that persist and have been in the news remain a challenge, simply
because the vaccines have a high failure rate--not because of the

Pertussis is a problem, because the vaccine works poorly.
66% of Maine cases
were fully vaccinated, 83% partially.
The Tdap pertussis vaccine is estimated 67%
effective the first year after inoculation, but only 9% effective 4 years later. [1]
Almost all of us are susceptible to pertussis
despite vaccination.  I have had pertussis twice.  I am fully
Given the failure rate of the pertussis vaccine,
no herd immunity is possible.  The bacteria regularly circulate in the
community, as they would even with a 100% vaccination rate.
Pertussis is not a major problem for the
immunocompromised, who are in fact regularly exposed.

Varicella (the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles) cannot be eradicated
even with a 100% vaccination rate.
A full 70% of Maine children who got chickenpox
in 2017 had been vaccinated.
Adults with shingles spread the virus; a disease-free
environment cannot be attained.
Fortunately, children do not die from varicella,
even highly immunocompromised children, for whom several treatments are
available. There is approximately one child death per year, in the
entire US
, from Varicella.

contrast, influenza--the "flu"--kills about 120 children per year in
the US, but again, the problem is that the vaccine is weak, and protection wears
off quickly. 
On average influenza vaccines are 40% effective,
according to the CDC. [2]
Herd immunity cannot be obtained, because even
if you vaccinate everyone, the majority will not be immune.
In the past ten years in Maine, 2
children have died from influenza.

has been so much talk about measles, but there has been only one case of
measles in Maine in 20 years, from a visitor who did not spread it to
The numbers speak for themselves.  Maine children are
already very well protected from those diseases for which we have good
protection.  Most cases of 'vaccine preventable' diseases in Maine are the
result of vaccine failures, not the result of unvaccinated children.

Maine's current vaccination rates are excellent, and have
successfully kept measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, polio and other diseases
from circulating.

the unfortunate fact is that there are no vaccines for the infections that most
jeopardize the immunocompromised. Most viruses, fungi and bacteria threatening the
immunocompromised have no vaccines against them. Fortunately, the
immunocompromised are not catching and dying from vaccine-preventable disease.

your committee votes to remove exemptions from families that currently avoid
immunizations -- because parents believe their children are at high risk of an
injury -- you will cause more vaccine injuries, and possibly deaths.  But
what you won’t do is prevent many infections in the rest of the population,
since the major reason these diseases circulate is that the vaccines are simply
not good enough.

truly serious epidemics in Maine students are teen suicides and narcotic drug
abuse. I hope your committee finds ways to address them.

look closely at the accurate numbers, from the federal and Maine CDC's.  I
am confident they will lead you to oppose this bill.

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