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Governor Mills: I urge Maine people to vote No on 1

A little more than a month ago, the residents of a city in central China began getting terribly sick with a virus that no one had seen before. As that virus spread, one of the first things that public health officials did was begin to work on a vaccine because vaccines save lives.

They are one of the best tools to safeguard our health, protect the health of those around us, friends and loved ones and children.

You know a century ago, as Maine celebrated its 100th birthday, influenza – the flu – posed a serious threat to our people and took thousands of lives. Globally, between 50 million and 100 million people (3 percent to 5 percent of the entire population) died from the flu between 1918 and 1920.

I don’t want that to happen again.

A hundred years later, the flu is still a public health concern, but thanks to vaccines, we are much safer than we used to be – if you get vaccinated.

Decades of scientific research prove that vaccines not only work but that they are safe.

Unfortunately, our state has had a vaccination opt-out rate that is three times higher than the national average for kids entering kindergarten. Our state ranks seventh in the country for the rate of non-medical opt-outs among school age children.

So last year alone, schools in Lincoln, York, and Cumberland counties experienced dangerous whooping cough outbreaks.

I supported Maine’s vaccination laws and, like every other Mainer, I also highly value personal choice. But, as your Governor, I am charged with protecting the health and safety of all Maine people, and amidst these outbreaks it has become painfully clear that Maine laws have not adequately protected the health of Maine people.

Last year I signed a bill to remove the non-medical exemptions from vaccination laws in order to better protect the health and welfare of people, especially young children, across our state – and this is something that four other states, including Mississippi, have done.

People opposed to this new law, however, have succeed in putting a referendum question on the ballot in March in the hopes of overturning the law.

Their campaign is masquerading itself as opposition to “Big Pharma,” but, really, pharmaceutical companies hardly benefit at all from producing vaccines, as the Bangor Daily News recently reported. And in trying to target so-called Big Pharma, whom nobody really likes, their campaign is purposefully trying to conflate vaccinations with other issues like the opioid epidemic when these issues are distinctly different.

Don’t buy it.

Vaccines work, but to make them more effective, people need to be vaccinated, especially children.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics notes, ensuring that everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated “is important because it uniquely protects the most vulnerable members of our communities, including infants, pregnant women and other individuals whose immune systems cannot combat certain harmful or deadly infections or who aren’t eligible to receive certain vaccines.”

Let’s not go back to a time when viruses like pertussis, the measles, mumps, or rubella were commonplace. 

Let’s protect our children. Let’s protect the future.

I urge Maine people to vote No on 1 March 3rd.

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