Senator questions safety of vaccinations; wants to give parents choice

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -- The debate over childhood vaccinations is about to bubble up in Pennsylvania and a senator who championed medical marijuana is at the center of the discussion.

"My bill doesn't forbid vaccinations, it just says let me be informed," Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) said.

Folmer is putting the finishing touches on his "informed consent" bill that would require parents be told what ingredients are in vaccines and the potential dangers vaccinations pose before their children are immunized.

"Isn't the old adage as a Libertarian buyer beware? This is basically, I'm aware. Where I can make an informed consent decision on what I'm doing with my child," Folmer said.

The medical establishment insists such a bill is unnecessary.

"It is very important for our children to get immunized and for the schools to track that," said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state's physician general and acting secretary of Health.

Levine is also a former pediatrician who says parents do sign off on vaccines and further, the science is settled.

"The vaccines are safe and effective and children and their families should be receiving them," Levine said.

But the senator, who concedes he's not a doctor, isn't so sure.

"Dennis, I've met some vax-damaged children," Folmer said. "Call it anecdotal, call it what you want, but I've met way too many families with children that were fine and they were meeting all their regiments, all their growth things, and everything was fine and then, bam, it all changed," after they were vaccinated.

Folmer met with Crystal Hunsicker of Manheim in his Harrisburg office Wednesday. She has four children. The first three had negative reactions to immunizations, she says.

She recalled her oldest daughter's experience hours after getting the shots.

"Her fever went up to 105.7. She said her head hurt really bad. She was projectile vomiting," Hunsicker said. "I called my doctor. He said it was a vaccine reaction and that once we put them in we can't take them out."

Hunsicker is refusing to immunize her youngest child and has formed the Pennsylvania Medical Freedom Alliance. She thinks too many parents don't fully understand the potential dangers and just do what doctors tell them to do in having their children vaccinated at certain age intervals.

"If the parent is responsible for their child's injuries and lifetime costs of the child and the state is responsible for picking up these costs, the parent has the right to know that there is this risk," Hunsicker said.

"I think the purpose of the bill is to create that discussion and get that discussion going because we should know," Folmer said of the bill he's about to introduce.

He's already accomplished his mission of a broader discussion. His Facebook post on the topic generated nearly 72,000 comments. He's struck a nerve, which worries medical professionals who don't like seeds of doubt being sown when it comes to getting those shots.

"We don't want to add any more hindrances to our children and their families getting protected against these very serious illnesses," Levine said.

Is it possible that vaccinations can harm some of the kids some of the time under some circumstances but be a public safety success story for most of the kids, most of the time?

The experts say no, there are no harmful effects of vaccinations.

Hunsicker says that premise is unacceptable when it's your kid.

"Who gets to decide which kids lives are worth more than others?" Hunsicker asked. "Who gets to make that decision? How are we to say, 'yes, we understand some people are going to be hurt and we're OK with that'?"


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