Rep. Heidi Sampson’s guest column (Feb. 23) is rife with insults, misrepresentations and propaganda. Most disturbing is her theme of encouraging distrust in physicians, the CDC and the entire medical community. Trust is the foundation of the physician-patient relationship, and her litany of conspiracy theories threatens that partnership. I feel compelled to respond and rebut some of her claims:

• As a board-certified pediatrician, I have never received any financial incentive for vaccinating patients. I have admitted and cared for unvaccinated children who contracted vaccine-preventable illnesses, including some who were admitted to the ICU. The only vaccine “injuries” I have encountered in my career are mild fever, fussiness and pain or swelling at the injection site.

• The Maine CDC did not testify “we don’t have a problem” regarding vaccination rates. Maine’s overall vaccination rate is under 95%, and many individual schools have much lower vaccination rates and have dropped below thresholds necessary to maintain herd immunity and prevent outbreaks.

• Insinuating that pediatricians don’t understand the science behind immunizations and can’t keep up to date with vaccine science is offensive and false.

• The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 was passed in order to meet two goals: 1) “quickly, easily, with certainty and generosity” compensate people when a rare vaccine injury occurs, and 2) protect the country from a situation in which the potential for liability is so great that companies no longer produce vaccines.

• The World Health Organization states that vaccines “are almost uniquely successful interventions — highly effective, extremely safe, mostly affordable and not vulnerable to the development of resistance, as occurs with antimicrobials.”

• Vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy before they are approved or recommended for use, and the safety of vaccines is monitored on an ongoing basis using the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System so health care professionals and patients can report concerns after a vaccine is released.

• Although outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses can occur anywhere, they occur far more often and spread much more quickly in communities with lower vaccination rates.

• Recently vaccinated individuals do not pose risks for immune-compromised individuals. The only exceptions are the oral polio vaccine (no longer used in the U.S.) and the live attenuated nasal influenza vaccine (a flu shot is recommended instead). In fact, families with immune-compromised individuals are recommended to get all their vaccinations, because a vaccine-preventable illness is a grave danger to these patients.

Rep. Sampson wants to tell people who they should trust, but it’s up to individuals to decide who to believe: an herbalist and politician who received $700 for her election campaign from the group in opposition to this law, or the nearly 60 health care and nonprofit organizations and countless physicians like myself. We’ll be voting “no” on Question 1 on March 3.

Joseph Anderson, DO, is a pediatric hospitalist practicing in Lewiston. He resides in South Portland.


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