When the hundreds of protesters in front of the statehouse Oct. 16 applauded a speaker, seven-year-old Alex Wurmser started screaming.
Wurmser who was diagnosed with autism after receiving a series of what are considered routine vaccinations, is easily startled by loud noises. However, he accompanied his mother MaryTara to the protest so together they could oppose the mandating of more vaccines for children in New Jersey and to support the passage of A260/S1071, legislation that would provide a conscientious belief exemption to mandatory vaccination.
New Jersey children that attend any public or private school or day care facility are currently required to have 35 doses of 13 vaccines, including an annual flu shot starting at the age of 6 months old. The New Jersey government mandates more vaccines than any other state in the country and is the first government in the world to mandate flu and meningococcal shots.
"I want parents to be able to call the shots and to be able to make an informed decision about vaccinations," Alex's mother MaryTara, of Brick Township, said. "I also want the shots to be cleaned up of toxins ingredients like mercury and aluminum."
New Jersey parents currently have two means of objecting to the state's vaccination schedule for children. They can provide a medical exemption from a licensed physician or nurse practitioner that indicates a specific time period in which the child cannot receive specific vaccinations and reasons for medical contraindication enumerated by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Parents can also seek religious exemption by explaining how immunizing agents conflict with bona fide practice of their religious tenets. The school administrator/principal makes the decision to accept or reject a religious exemption and a school or local health department may choose to challenge the credibility of the filed exemption for children attending a public school.
Parents who violate the vaccination man- date can fall subject to penalties of not less than $50 or more than $1,000, recovered by the state in a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction.
Sandra Holbrok, of New Providence, said she had no choice but to declare religious objection to avoid having her three-year-old vaccinated to attend preschool.
"We want to be able to conscientiously choose when and how our children receive vaccinations," Holbrok said.
Robert Krakow, executive director of Autism United and the father of a vaccine-injured child, said 19 other states in the country have conscientious objection exemption from vaccinations. He said supporters of conscientious objection are not necessarily anti-vaccinations and often have children who are fullyor partly-vaccinated.
Hightstown's Olivia Middleton said the problem with religious exemption is that parents who declare it have to opt out of all vaccinations for their child.
"That's an issue because if you are a parent who doesn't want your child to have a flu vaccine because you don't think the flu is a deadly disease, with the present law it's not possible to opt out," she said. "Conscientious objection simply allows you to submit, upon entrance to school, paperwork for a philosophical exemption from or for your own personal conscience that you have chosen to give certain vaccinations and not others or not at all. It's the parents choice."
Proponents of conscientious objection believe that a one size fits all vaccination program is not tenable in this society, according to Middleton.
"Family history and the individual history of the child is paramount," she said. "To sacrifice a subset of the population to death and other chronic diseases is not the answer so that others can avoid possible diseases."
John Gilmore, cofounder of Autism United, said the number of children with autism, juvenile diabetes and other vaccination related injuries continues to increase.
Gilmore said in the last eight years the autism rate in New Jersey jumped from 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 95 children, with Garden State boys facing an autism rate of 1 in 65.
"My son has autism," he said. "He was developing normally until his first vaccination, when he developed a high fever and stopped talking and starting spitting."
Gilmore continued, "We've seen an autism explosion and the number of vaccinations in the United States tripled during that time. We need an aggressive review of vaccinations not done by the vaccination industry themselves."
Gilmore took issue with politically-appointed boards making the vaccination decisions for New Jersey children. He noted that there are more recorded deaths of children who had the newly mandated meningococcal vaccination than there have been deaths of children from meningitis.
"How come our children still have to receive it?" he asked. "It's not about protecting the kids. It's about helping vaccine manufacturers."
Gilmore said pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey donated over $1 million to politicians during the last 12 months.
"I know money talks but votes talk even more and we're being watched now so we got to keep the pressure on," he said. "If we do, we will win."
Middleton said the vaccination mandates are not about children's health.
"I believe the government and big pharmacies are in bed together," Middleton said, adding that if the state cared about children's health it would demand "green vaccines" that do not contain neurotoxins and carcinogens such as thimerosal, formaldehyde, mercury and aluminum.
Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R District-39), the primary sponsor of the conscientious objection bill, said federal law exempts vaccine manufacturers from liability. She said the federal government compensates those parents who can establish a firm timeline between a vaccination and a resulting injury or death and has paid $910 million toward vaccination-damaged children. She said as of Oct. 1, the federal government had 988 vaccination-related deaths on file.
"What about the products causing the deaths of these children?" Vandervalk asked. "They're still on the market. Even worse, these products are being mandated for use."
Vandervalk said New Jersey parents should have the choice to make medical decisions for their children and they have a right to keep their children free from risk.
"New Jersey parents have basic human rights," she said.
Maria Pinho, of Toms River, said, "As parents, we brought our children into this world and we should be able to consent to any medical intervention that they should receive. Currently, I have to consent to surgery, why shouldn't I have to consent to vaccinations?"
Pinho, who has a son who developed language issues after he received two doses of three vaccines, said she had her child tested for toxins and discovered aluminum and arsenic toxicity.
"I believe the environment is a catalyst for these issues and the vaccinations pull the trigger," she said.
She said there is a need for vaccinations but more research needs to be done regarding ingredients, interactions and scheduling.
"I believe our doctors aren't getting the proper education," Pinho said. "They're being told how to administer a shot but they aren't getting a full education about vaccines."
On the packaging for the Influenza Virus Vaccine Fluarix, Glaxosmithkline states that the product has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential or for impairment of fertility.
"We need independent research, not research by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or paid for by the pharmaceutical companies," Pinho said.
Damani Parran, who has a Ph.D. in toxicology and is a board certified toxicologist, said the safety information being presented about vaccinations is contradictory. For example, he said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children ages 6 to 59 months get flu shots, which contain mercury levels that are 50 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's safety level for mercury in seafood.
Parran also said that only 6 percent of the flu shots offered in New Jersey are mercury free because most contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. According to the Food and Drug Administration, mercury causes neurological problems in children.
"As a parent, if I am being forced to vaccinate my child, I want insurance that my child will be safe," Parran said.
Currently, A260/S1071, which would provide for conscientious objection to vaccinations, has 34 sponsors and cosponsors in legislative districts across the state. The proposed legislation is a bipartisan effort backed by both Republicans and Democrats, including local Senator (D-30) Robert Singer and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (D-13).