Due to whooping cough outbreaks in New Jersey, the Senate wants more children to be vaccinated. In response, the Senate Health Committee has advanced S1759, which is aimed at religious parents.
S1759 compels parents to disclose private information about their religious beliefs. Parents must explain how vaccination is inconsistent with their religious practices. But it goes further. This bill requires a notarized, sworn statement. Parents must swear that their beliefs are consistently held. And at the end of the day, government and school officials will evaluate whether these statements are sincerely held. The Senate Health Committee wants New Jersey to be the first state in the nation to target religious parents in such a manner. And they are moving the bill to the full Senate very soon.
There are three big problems with their bill.
First, it won’t work. The federal government admits that whooping cough is not caused by unvaccinated children. Let’s be clear: the vaccine is not working well. The CDC says it is because the disease continues to mutate, and the vaccine hasn’t kept up. Children in New Jersey are mandated to receive at least five doses of pertussis vaccine. And outbreaks are occurring among the fully vaccinated. A new study from The New England Journal of Medicine, dated September 13, 2012, says the pertussis vaccine significantly wanes after the fifth dose. Why force more children to take an ineffective vaccine?
Second, the bill is offensive. Do lead sponsors of S1759, Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Sen. Joseph Vitale, think religious parents claiming an exemption to mandatory vaccination are lying? It sure seems likely, and their ineffective, knee-jerk response— to make it a whole lot more difficult for religious parents to obtain exemptions in New Jersey—will not stop whooping cough outbreaks. People of faith who choose not to vaccinate are not the problem, and the CDC admits it. S1759 solves nothing; it merely harasses and intimidates religious parents.
Third, whooping cough isn’t going away. According to government reports, pertussis is a common disease in the U.S., cyclical in nature, and it peaks every 3 to 5 years. Pertussis also exists in animal populations, which may help to keep the pathogen alive and circulating. Strong evidence for a domestic animal origin of human pathogens exists for pertussis and measles [Pearce-Duvet, 2006].
The answer to the whooping cough crisis is not to target religious parents and to force more parents to give their children an ineffective vaccine. Unvaccinated children are not the ones causing the disease outbreaks. Tell your senator no to S1759.
For more information, go to www.njvaccinationchoice.org.
Louise Kuo Habakus, Middletown
Gayle Casas, Holmdel