To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?: First Annual Pediatric Resident Day at the State Capitol

John Cole, MD is a resident in Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen.

As a pediatric resident, I can attest to the effects of children who have not been vaccinated, and the consequences are devastating. Given the success of vaccines over the past decades, it is not surprising that the public is unaware of how devastating vaccine-preventable diseases can be since we don’t see many of them anymore – or at least not until parents started to refuse to have their children vaccinated.  A look back into not-so-distant history is enough to remind us of the life-changing effects of disease like polio, measles, and haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). New parents have not seen these diseases in their lifetimes. However, today Vermont’s immunization rates have declined, in part because of the use of the “philosophical exemption,” and vaccine-preventable illnesses not seen for decades are gaining traction in our local communities.

The University of Vermont pediatric residency program has a strong history of advocating for children in the community through support of issues that include the following: reducing the prevalence of food insecurity, ensuring all children have a medical home, decreasing the incidence of obesity, and promoting swim safety for refugee populations, to name a few.  In addition, few residency programs offer a legislative curriculum. UVM does this for its residents because in a small, welcoming state like Vermont, our pediatricians can make a big impact on public health policies that will save lives. As part of our residency program, on a sunny day this past March, ten UVM pediatric residents made their first journey to the capitol to meet and discuss health policy with legislators.

The UVM pediatrics residents on the State House steps!

For many of us, this was our first experience in the state house, so we had to start from the basics. Over the past few months we had a series of guest speakers give lectures discussing how a bill is passed, how to testify in a public hearing, and how to understand the complexities of current issues.

Next, we chose our platform. Bill S.199 would eliminate a parent’s right to claim

a philosophical opposition to vaccines and to exempt their children from receiving required vaccines before enrolling in daycare or public school. Those opposed to this bill have framed it as a parental rights issue; however, their choice puts others at risk including children who have been vaccinated (since vaccines are not always 100% effective), and also those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Walking into the entrance of the State House, I was struck by the accessibility of this building to its citizens. As one of the only citizen-based congresses in the country, Vermont’s legislators have a pulse on their constituents. We met with many members of the House Health Care Committee who were considering S.199, who shared their need (and the public’s need) for clarifying what the science really says about vaccination. The hype stirred up about the safety of vaccines has taken an unfortunate toll on public knowledge of their safety, but scientific data has overwhelmingly demonstrated that vaccines are safe and effective at saving lives.  Committee members were gracious and open to speaking with the residents.  Later we observed proceedings on the House floor and had a tour of the State House.

At the end of the day, we felt our message was heard; however, we realized that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We saw first-hand how effective it is to speak in person to our legislators and will continue to advocate for the health of Vermont’s children.

Headed home after a big day at the State House


John Cole, MD is a resident in Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen.

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Editor’s Note: Please let your legislators know how important it is that children are vaccinated and ask them to support S.199, by calling 802-828-2228 or going to and finding your legislator’s e-mail address.

This entry was posted in Community Health, Immunizations, M.D, Physicians, Vaccines, Vermont Childrens Hospital. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?: First Annual Pediatric Resident Day at the State Capitol

  1. sue parrott says:

    interesting – bigger than i thought.

  2. taramcmillan says:

    Al of my kids have reactions to vaccinations. They aren’t safe for everyone. Even Geri Dawson – chief science officer for Autism speaks admits that there are a group of kids who can have reactions to vaccines. Until you see the other side of Vaccine Injury- you have no say in approving the “proven” safety of vaccines.

    From Adventures in Autism blog….

    Only a year ago, Autism Speaks science director Geri Dawson said we are not allowed to talk about vaccines any more. But now she says this…

    Tom Ashbrook interviewed her on NPR:
    Ashbrook: “Dr. Dawson, here’s a question online from Melrose, has the link between MMR vaccine and autism been completely discredited. I notice that the word ‘vaccine’ has not even come up so far in this hour. Is that…for some years that had a lot of attention, is that off the table now, Dr. Dawson?”

    Dr. Dawson: “There is no evidence that the increase in prevalence that we’re seeing in Autism Spectrum Disorder is linked to the MMR vaccine. You know, if vaccines play a role, and there has not been any evidence thus far to show that it has, it would be a very small minority of individuals who have an underlying medical condition where the vaccine may have triggered an onset of symptoms for an already existing condition or vulnerability. So we do not believe that vaccines are an explanation of the increase and we strongly encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.”

  3. Suzy RN says:

    While it seems clear that you have taken in the full propaganda of the pharmaceutical companies, it is also completely clear that you have not done due diligence in exploring the opposite viewpoint. “As a pediatric resident, I can attest to the effects of children who have not been vaccinated, and the consequences are devastating.” Do you not think that the death (or disability) of a child from taking his/her vaccinations is not equally devastating? Certainly for those families they will forever be re-thinking the disastrous decision to vaccinate. I think you owe it to your patients (both parents and children) to explore the “dark side” of vaccinations. And you can take my word for it, there is indeed a dark underbelly. Perhaps you can start off with reading the opinion of a vaccine developer. When you are done with that perhaps you can go out to the government VAERS website ( and read up. If vaccines are so inherently safe, you should ask yourself these questions: Why are there SO many adverse reaction reports? Why did drug companies seek legal protection from having to pay for the failure of their products? (if vaccines are SO safe, why would you need legal protection?) And why is there so little knowledge among medical professionals to the information that is available to you through medical journals ( I too am a medical professional who believed the propaganda. I sought to research the anti-vaxers so I would have a cogent argument to convince them that vaccinations were indeed the promised panacea. I, however, was the one who got educated. I hope that you will put in the time and effort to explore the “other side” of the vaccination issue. Then ask yourself this question: Do I believe so completely in the safety of vaccinations that I will sign a legally binding contract to accept full financial responsibility should a family have an adverse reaction to a vaccine? If you answered no to that hypothetical question, then you need to further explore the information on ALL aspects of the vaccination issue. You owe it to your patients! Suzy RN

  4. Mother of recovered kid! says:

    Gee, I had measles, mumps, and the chicken pox as a child (I’m in my 40s) and the flu several times. I thrived!

    My son was a preterm infant (36 weeks) who got RSV at three months. His ped thought it was a good idea to keep filling my kid up with vaxes (gotta make the BMW payment, I guess) and not let his immune system recover. Right after the MMR + a flu shot at 12 months and guess what? Whoops! We done came down with the AUTISM! Golly gee, how’d THAT happen? Never mind that NO ONE in either my or my husbands’ families 5 generations back ever had ASD! Huh! scratching our heads here…guess this ‘genetic’ disease (LOL) started in ’07 in our family!

    The good news is that after 2 years of low dose, heavy metal chelation and we no longer have ASD! Isn’t that amazing? How DOES removing mercury and aluminum remove all ‘autism’ symptoms? Ahh, well. My son just finished Kinder at or above in every area without an aide or any therapies. He rocks!

    Thank God I didn’t listen to my clueless ped! My son would be in an institution!

    Moms like me are FIRING docs like you everyday. Maybe you chose the wrong area of practice? The days where moms blindly follow Ped’s advice is OVER.

  5. S Loire King says:

    This is scarey….is this what our medical schools are producing? Scarey, very scarey indeed. Has he done ANY research?

  6. Maemers says:

    Seriously…I love how there is no medical literature in this article to back himself up. Does he even read the inserts nestled snugly on the vials in his office? The current DtAP brags of 1600 children followed for a few months studied for adverse reactions. Back in the 80s. Um…? I’m sure there’s recent stuff…right? So put that in the vial? And how about follow more than a measley 1600 kids, and I might take you seriously? Oh and PLEASE do a study on vaccinated vs unvaccinated children…and then get back to me. Oh, and Merck, Sanofi, Pfizer…they aren’t allowed to conduct it.

  7. S Loire King says:

    Dear Fletcher…let us educate you…..send you researching for real….to find the truth. It might influence the direction of your life and help you truly save the kids you have become a doctor to save. I would suggest starting with Dr.Suzanne Humphries. You are spouting the party line. The problem is the party line is fraught with fraud & insanity.
    I am not meaning this in any kind of sarcastic tone. More of an I dare you. This is serious business you are doing…..and you are on the wrong track.

  8. Autism Man Who Likes says:

    I am an autistic person, and I can’t tie my own shoes. I have never received a vaccination. Thank you.

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