Vaccines are the most effective way to protect our kids

Maine’s new presidential primary system has captured much of the attention leading up to the March 3 vote.

We’ve been visited by candidates, bombarded by ads (I’m talking to you Mike Bloomberg) and escaped the horror of party caucuses (sorry Iowa, you earned the scorn).

When voters go to the polls on March 3, they’ll also be asked whether or not they want to reject a new state law that ended loopholes that allowed some people to inappropriately avoid vaccinations for their kids.

Voters should reject the People’s Veto and vote “no” on Question 1.

Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, speaks at a Feb. 4 news conference with doctors opposed to Question 1, the referendum on vaccinations. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

I’m proud of Maine for its commitment to direct democracy.

Our state has a history of empowering voters to make their own decisions about important issues through citizens’ initiatives and People’s Vetoes.

That doesn’t mean, however, that voters should support every effort.

Vaccines are one of the most effective way to ensure our kids get off to a successful start to life. They help to protect against preventable disease, they save lives and they are a critical part of safeguarding public health.

As is the case with most People’s Veto efforts, the language of the question itself can be a little confusing.

“Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?”

A “yes” vote in favor of the People’s Veto means that you want to reject the new law; a “no” vote means you want to keep it. Vote “no.”

I understand that for some folks there is a genuine concern about vaccines. As the parent of two kids, part of my responsibility is to advocate for my children, including when they go to the doctor.

It’s a tough job.

Most of us aren’t doctors, nurses or scientists. We are trying to navigate a maze of health insurance requirements and a flood of information – some of it false and dangerous. If you’ve ever Googled an ailment, then you know it can be exceptionally hard to determine fact from fiction, particularly when some advocates preach a constant stream of misinformation and bad science.

Parents are right to be skeptical and to ask questions, whether it’s about vaccines or any other medical treatment. When it comes to our kids, most of us would do anything to protect them – but it’s not always easy to know what the right thing is to do.

On vaccines, the answer isn’t hard. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, today’s vaccinations are the safest in history.

As the CDC reports, vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability. “Routine childhood immunization among children born 1994-2018 will prevent an estimated 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 early deaths over the course of their lifetimes.”

The CDC also estimates preventing those bad outcomes also has a tremendous economic impact, saving $406 billion in direct costs and $1.9 trillion in societal costs.

As J. Nadine Gracia and Amy Pisani wrote for Health Affairs, “no other medical intervention saves as much money.

And according to The World Health Organization, vaccines have done more to reduce the spread of dangerous diseases in the 20th century than anything except greater access to clean water.

The other night, I received a telephone call from a volunteer working on the “yes” campaign. She was calling with a set of talking points that were meant to encourage me to vote in favor of the People’s Veto.

The arguments were based on fear and confusion and a growing – and earned –skepticism of the pharmaceutical industry. I was short with the woman, who I have no doubt sincerely believed what she was saying. She grew obviously frustrated with me.

By any object measure, the call was a flop for both of us.

If I could do it over again, I think I would have approached the call differently. I’m certain that the volunteer loves her kids as I love mine. I believe that she’s concerned about their well-being and their future, and that she’s doing her best to try to figure out how to give them the best head start on life.

I also don’t for a second believe that I could have changed her mind. For some, the fear of vaccines is akin to faith – no amount of evidence, tsk-tsking or preaching is likely to change their minds.

So what does that mean for the election? It means that every one of us who supports vaccinations needs to show up and vote “no.” Early voting has already started. Ballots are available. Take a few minutes and vote because I guarantee, folks who oppose vaccines will turnout. Don’t wake up on March 4 with regret.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at