Government Police Powers

A History of Public Health Laws, Quarantine and Detention
Updated February 07, 2023

In 1982, when parents of DPT vaccine injured children launched the vaccine safety and informed consent movement in the U.S., the public called for vaccine safety and informed consent protections in the vaccine system, while the pharmaceutical industry called on Congress to shield them from civil liability for vaccine injuries and deaths caused by federally licensed and recommended childhood vaccines. In response, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 giving partial liability protection to the vaccine industry and to doctors giving vaccines to children. 

In the 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry and public health and medical trade associations began lobbying state legislatures to add new vaccine mandates and restrict vaccine exemptions. Simultaneously, Congress passed HIPPA “medical privacy” legislation that created electronic medical records and vaccine tracking systems, in association with HMOs and state vaccine tracking systems, that allow vaccine researchers, pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement agencies to access the information. 

Featured Commentary: Click here to read the fully referenced commentary by Barbara Loe Fisher on CDC's attempt to increase their police powers.

After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, when Americans were experiencing enormous loss and fear, Congress quickly passed federal legislation that gave unprecedented authority to the Executive branch of government and created the third largest federal agency – the Department of Homeland Security. In response to fear of bioterrorism, federal legislation was passed to give more funding and liability protection to the pharmaceutical industry to create new vaccines to combat bioterrorism and pandemic influenza. 

At the same time, public health officials and medical trade associations lobbied legislatures to enact the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHA) to expand the police powers that state health officials can use whenever a public health emergency is declared by the federal or state government. In this climate of fear and uncertainty, criticism of vaccine safety and expressing support for voluntary, informed consent to vaccination was often characterized as lack of patriotism and a danger to national security and the public health.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government licensed vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” and that vaccine manufacturers should not be held liable for vaccine injuries and deaths in civil court, in effect granting the pharmaceutical industry complete protection from any accountability or product liability for vaccine injuries and deaths. Soon after, industry and medical trade lobbyists stepped up their efforts to persuade state legislatures to eliminate religious, conscientious or philosophical belief exemptions and restrict medical exemptions in state vaccine laws.

Today, Americans are witnessing an unprecedented attack on freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief when it comes to making informed vaccination decisions for themselves and their minor children. In 2015, there was an effort to eliminate religious and conscientious belief vaccine exemptions in 13

states  While citizen advocates in 11 states protected those exemptions, the Vermont legislature repealed the philosophical belief exemption and the California state legislature passed a law eliminating the personal belief exemption, leaving only a medical exemption. At the urging of federal health officials, the informed consent right of health care workers in America have also been eroded, with many employers firing health care workers who do not get an annual flu shot or other federally recommended vaccines. 

The U.S. government has authority under the U.S. Constitution to use police power to prevent people with serious communicable diseases from coming into the U.S. or transmitting disease across state borders. In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jacoboson v Massachusetts affirmed the constitutional authority of state governments to use police power to prevent transmission of serious communicable diseases. However, the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution also protects civil liberties, which requires vaccine policies and laws to be reasonable and balance individual freedoms with the authority of government to enact public health policies and laws. 

Since 1982, the National Vaccine Information Center has been dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and defending the informed consent ethic, including advocating for the protection of freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief in vaccine laws. We urge everyone to become educated about the federal and state laws that protect our civil liberties and to take action to protect them when they are threatened.

It’s your family. Your health. Your choice.

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