Rep. Metcalfe pushes bill requiring doctors to treat unvaccinated kids
As measles continues to spread across the nation, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe rallied support Tuesday for a bill he introduced in January that would prevent doctors from denying care to children whose parents have chosen not to have them vaccinated.
House Bill 286, also known as the Informed Consent Protection Act, would prohibit nurses and other health care workers from telling people that they or their children should get a vaccination. It also says that a health practitioner must not “harass, coerce, scold or threaten” a patient or parent for refusing immunization.
The proposal would forbid a health insurer from penalizing doctors for low immunization rates while doctors “may not accept a financial incentive from an insurance or pharmaceutical company for vaccinating patients or for maintaining a certain rate of vaccinated patients within his or her practice.”
At a news conference, Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said parents have a right to decide for their children what is in their best interests.
“Whether they are choosing to vaccinate on a different schedule or limit the number of vaccines, or refuse some of the vaccines, it’s a parent’s right to make that decision for their child,” Metcalfe said. “Our children don’t belong to the state. This is not communist Russia.”
“(Metcalfe’s) bill seems to indicate that doctors are being mean to do this,” said Dr. Mark Roberts, professor and chair, Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “That’s not the point. They’re saying, ‘You could be dangerous to very ill children if you bring an unvaccinated and infected child into my office.’ The other thing is that an insurance company has to be responsible for the health of a population and if they want to give incentives for having a highly vaccinated population, that’s up to them.”
At his news conference, Metcalfe introduced several anti- vaccination parents and advocates, including Dr. James Lyons-Weiler, a former faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Lyons-Weiler urged biomedical researchers around the world to “take everything that comes out of the Centers for Disease Control on vaccine safety with a grain of salt.
“We have a large amount of evidence that there is a bias ingrained in their DNA to create confidence in vaccines rather than to conduct science,” Lyons-Weiler said. “I’ve traveled around the country, and I’m seeing personal rights being taken away, religious rights being taken away, and I’m seeing doctors being prosecuted, and we do not want this in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
The Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners called Metcalfe’s bill a punitive measure that penalizes health care professionals.
“These health professionals, who are the first line of defense in protecting our children, would be threatened by the loss of licensure and fines for not complying with the provisions of this bill,” said Kathy Verbel, president of PASNAP.
Metcalfe’s proposed anti- vaccine legislation coincides with a measles outbreak in the U.S. that has affected more than 700 individuals in 22 states this year. A recent mumps outbreak at Temple University has infected at least 140 people. More than 500 people infected in those 22 states were not vaccinated.
“The fact is the dramatic rise we’ve seen in measles cases is directly related to people not being vaccinated,” Roberts said. “Sometime this year some child is going to die of measles, and they didn’t have to because some parent decided that debunked science was more important to believe than literally hundreds of millions of examples of a child not getting a disease because they got vaccinated.”
State Rep. Dan Frankel, Democratic chair of the House Health Committee, said he was dismayed to see fellow legislators introduce and endorse anti-vaccination legislation.
“In the face of these unprecedented outbreaks, what Representative Daryl Metcalfe is doing today, lending the dignity of his office to the pseudo- science of the anti-vaccination community is irresponsible at best,” Frankel said. “The science and safety of vaccines is not in question, or in doubt. I implore Representative Metcalfe to reconsider his position, especially in the face of the ongoing measles outbreaks across our nation. These easily preventable diseases should be in history books, not in hospital emergency rooms.”
Frankel is planning to introduce new legislation that would require parents seeking a religious or philosophical exemption to get an annual medical consultation to “understand the existing threats to children’s health from communicable diseases,” and to get briefed on potential school exclusions and quarantines in the case of outbreaks.
“Why would Dan Frankel want to require counseling by the people that have been indoctrinated by the vaccine pushers, the same people that Dan Frankel would turn around and most likely claim that they’re pushing opioids but they should trust them with vaccines?” Metcalfe said. “The hypocrisy of Dan Frankel and others is amazing.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a statement saying it opposes Metcalfe’s legislation and supports vaccination and the establishment of a duty to immunize.
“This legislation places physicians in an untenable situation to care for a patient who will not accept the physician’s recommendations,” the statement said.
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].