... but he is hesitating because of "ethical, legal and practical issues." Under new "emergency" regulations passed in August by the Public Health Council (under Auerbach's leadership), all health facility employees in Massachusetts are being told to get both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines, but will be allowed to opt out:
"Mandatory programs raise serious ethical, legal and practical issues because of the coercive nature of such programs, potential liability concerns, and the potential damage to workplace relationships when cooperation is most needed to address a possible pandemic."
-- this from Commissioner Auerbach's letter dated August 12. (See letter here).
While the Department of Public Health is now making an effort to appear respectful of individual rights, it could always revise its regulations at any time regarding whether a vaccine is recommended or mandated. Auerbach's letter makes it clear that he thinks the Public Health Council has the authority to debate and decide this issue. The agency's ability to call on emergency powers is worrisome. And there is an open-ended statute already on the books in Massachusetts authorizing local health boards to mandate vaccinations (for unnamed disease). The DPH is in charge of local health boards.
So for now, the DPH is ordering health facility workers to be vaccinated for both H1N1 and seasonal flu, but allowing them to sign a refusal -- which goes into their personnel file. (If the DPH has the power to grant the right to opt out, it can also take it away!) How long until either the state or the facility goes to the next level of control: A person can’t work there unless he’s taken the vaccine? Health facilities now are required to report to the DPH how many of their employees get the vaccine (and will be ranked accordingly by the state bureaucrats), increasing pressure ("incentive") on the facility to mandate vaccination for employees. So how long will it be until the Dept. of Public Health orders hospitals to bar anyone who refuses a recommended/required vaccine, as they now do in schools, universities and the military?
There are many well informed medical professionals who will opt out of this mass vaccination for H1N1. (One report suggests as many as half may refuse the shot.) So the DPH is probably not so much sensitive to civil rights issues as concerned that they’d have a rebellion on their hands among health professionals if they try to enforce a mandatory vaccination program (the "legal and practical issues" noted by Auerbach).
Auerbach noted after his emergency regulations passed that he really wants everyone to be vaccinated:
New England Cable News Video: Dept of Public Health planning ‘mass vaccinations’ (8-12-09, our transcript)
NECN reporter Brad Puffer: The state Department of Public Health is hoping to vaccinate twice as many people as they did last year; they’re hoping to vaccinate half the population for the H1N1 virus. And that will be a huge task, one that will require new regulations. The Mass Public Health Council approved emergency regulations weds that will require all health care workers across the state to be vaccinated for both H1N1 and seasonal flu. In addition, all health care workers would be permitted to administer the vaccine, including pharmacists, dentists, and paramedics. [school clinics may be opened.] ... The state is preparing to administer up to 9 million doses this year. Schoolchildren will be targeted... But each H1N1 vaccine will require two shots. Seasonal flu would be yet another shot. ... The risks have been minimal, especially for healthy children. But they will be watching it closely, especially as both seasonal flu and H1N1 spread at the same time, making some in the population more vulnerable to complications.
Auerbach: “We can avoid that if people are vaccinated, both for seasonal flu and for H1N1, and we really want to try to do that.”
So don't worry. It's only a rumor that our government is moving towards mandatory vaccinations.
Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach issued a statement today to dispel rumors about mandatory vaccination for the so-called swine flu virus.
“The Department of Public Health will not call for or authorize mandatory vaccination against the pandemic flu,” Auerbach wrote in a memo sent to legislators and local officials. “There are no public health officials on the state, national, or global level calling for forced vaccination for H1N1.... The Department of Public Health has been functioning in a transparent manner and actively communicating about H1N1 planning, holding dozens of hours of conference calls with key stakeholders and engaging the media to keep the residents of Massachusetts informed. We are eager to offer the H1N1 vaccine to those most at risk who choose to be vaccinated when it becomes available in mid-October. Mandatory vaccination is not and has never been part of the plan or discussion in Massachusetts’ pandemic response.”
Note that in 2007, Auerbach testified for a bill mandating children be vaccinated for “all recommended vaccines” -- the list of which grows and grows, despite the strong evidence that autism, ADD, and other health problems are directly linked to the mercury and aluminum containing vaccines.