PHOENIX — A state senator wants to mandate that parents be told exactly which ingredients and chemicals are in vaccines before their children are inoculated.
The bill introduced by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, would require that any health professional provide not just the positive effects of vaccinations but also the full list of ingredients and side effects before a vaccine could be administered.
He pointed to a list from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says vaccines may variously contain phosphate, bovine serum, formaldehyde, fluoride, yeast extracts or human diploid fibroblast cell cultures (cultures of human fetal tissue).
Boyer said he’s not necessarily opposed to vaccinations for children and sidestepped questions of whether he personally believes vaccines are harmful.
But he said there has been an explosion in the number of vaccines that are scheduled to be given to children, going from five in the 1960s to more than 70 now.
The legislation comes as the Arizona Department of Health Services is trying to persuade more parents to get their children immunized. That follows a study which found that an increasing percentage of parents of children entering kindergarten are leaving their kids unvaccinated for personal reasons.
Health officials say it takes about a 95 percent vaccination rate to create “herd immunity.” That’s where enough people are immunized against a disease to prevent it from spreading widely into those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons.
Boyer said he’s not concerned that providing a list of chemicals in vaccines might work against what the health department is trying to accomplish.
“I think we should trust parents,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should be afraid of more information and what’s in these vaccines we’re giving to our children.”
State health officials would not comment about the legislation.
But former Arizona health director Will Humble said he worries it could lead to fewer parents agreeing to vaccinate their children.
He said parents already are provided with what the CDC has determined they need to know about the vaccines and the side effects, all in a form that is understandable.
Inundating parents with technical information that is not meaningful and potentially confusing won’t help, said Humble, who is executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. Rather, he said, it will result in doctors having to spend valuable time explaining the technical information instead of talking to parents about things like keeping their children safe at home and in cars.
But Boyer said that, as far as he’s concerned, parents are being denied information they need in a timely fashion.
“Everybody who goes for an operation procedure or anything, they’re informed. They’re told of all the risks that could happen with whatever procedure it is,” he said. “They’re not given the surgery and then, after the fact, told, ‘Oh, by the way, here are the known adverse effects.’”
He said that’s what’s happening now, as state law calls for parents to be given a sheet listing reactions to watch for after vaccinations.
Humble said he has no problem with altering the law to have that information given to parents ahead of time. But it’s the rest of what Boyer is proposing, he said, that he believes could harm overall public health.
One is giving parents the full list of side effects prepared by manufacturers with approval of the Food and Drug Administration that is mainly meant for doctors. Humble said what’s being provided now is what’s appropriate.
“Where you have ineffective informed consent is when somebody gets something that they don’t understand,” he said.
Humble said a 12-page FDA-approved package insert meant for doctors does nothing to help parents make decisions about the merits of a specific vaccine. Flooding them with data would create unnecessary fears, he said.
“I don’t know that most parents know that bovine extract or animal parts or fetus parts are in certain vaccines,” the legislator said. “And I just think, as a parent, we should know the answer to that.”