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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Experts reject bill easing vaccination requirements in schools



Physicians & Surgeons Association of Puerto Rico President Carlos Díaz Vélez

By The Star Staff


The House Health Committee resumed public hearings Wednesday on House Bill 1948, which would ease school vaccination requirements by allowing parents to reject vaccinating their children.


Gerardo Tosca, chairman of the Puerto Rican Society of Pediatrics board of directors, rejected the measure on the grounds that it would go against global efforts to eliminate preventable infectious diseases.


“This bill, contrary to Law 25, leaves our children from 0 to 4 years old without the necessary protection of vaccination requirements when science tells us that vaccines are essential from an early age,” Tosca said.


Physicians & Surgeons Association of Puerto Rico (CMC) President Carlos Díaz Vélez also opposed the measure, noting it would take Puerto Rico into a new dark age.


“The positions for repealing Law 25 are those that have caused the resurgence of previously controlled or eradicated diseases,” he said in a written statement to the panel. “For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that vaccine hesitancy is one of the main threats to global health, linked to outbreaks of measles, polio, and whooping cough.”


“This bill, in essence, inserts the State into an anti-science ideological current that has been gaining followers in what has been described as a new dark age,” the CMC president added.


Also speaking out against the House bill was Waleska Crespo Rivera, president of the Association of Private Colleges and Universities of Puerto Rico and the Central University of the Caribbean.


“It is the Government that mainly has to protect the fundamental right to health and establish programs to strengthen health systems,” she said.


On behalf of the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) and its interim chancellor, Dharma Vázquez Torres, Inés Esquilín, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, also objected to the bill. RCM maintains that “vaccines are safe and go through a rigorous evaluation process by the Food and Drug Administration prior to being approved,” she said.


“Some groups allege that our immune system weakens with greater exposure to vaccine antigens,” stated the RCM interim chancellor in an explanatory memo. “This concept is not correct, nor does it have a scientific basis. On the contrary, vaccines and their simultaneous administration stimulate our immune system to produce antibodies that protect us.”


“We can talk about diet and vitamins, but there is nothing superior to vaccination, which is scientifically documented,” Esquilín said. “If Law 25 is repealed, herd immunity is lost.”


Lawyer and Catholic priest Carlos Pérez Toro, meanwhile, attended the hearing to show his support for the bill. Based on the right to Freedom of Conscience, Pérez Toro insisted that the right of parents to refuse vaccines on behalf of their minor children should be considered fundamental.


“The lack of informing parents so that they are the ones who ultimately decide what is best for the health of their children led to government decisions about forced vaccination that were often not based on the need to protect the school community from contagious diseases,” he said.

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