STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN JOHN D. DINGELL
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE
THE HONORABLE JOHN D. DINGELL
IN OPPOSITION TO H.R. 1463
MARCH 31, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I join the millions of our Nation's first responders in opposition to H.R. 1463, the "Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003." Right after we defeat this bill, I hope that we set about the task of crafting bipartisan legislation that all members of the House can support. The very people this bill purports to help -- nurses, EMTs, police officers, firefighters -- find this hastily crafted
legislation lacking. Why? Because it fails to address their very significant concerns.
Mr. Speaker, we are voting on smallpox vaccine injury legislation today because the Administration's current vaccine program is not working
. Only a fraction of the number of first responders that the Administration has said are needed to protect us have volunteered to take the smallpox vaccine. The Administration has recommended that as many as ten million first responders be vaccinated for smallpox so that if we ever are attacked by the use of smallpox we will have a core capacity of health care and emergency personnel vaccinated and able to take appropriate action right away. The latest numbers from CDC indicate that less than 26,000 of them have been vaccinated. Why so few? Because the vaccination carries with it substantial risks, including adverse affects that could cause disability and, in some cases, death.
Proponents of H.R. 1463 will make much of what they think that bill does. I ask you to focus on what it lacks.
H.R. 1463 does not do enough
to ensure adequate screening and education and otherwise prevent adverse events from happening in the first place. In the event that tragedy strikes and someone is injured or killed by the vaccine, H.R. 1463 does not
make adequate provision for lost wages. And, what H.R. 1463 lacks is support from the people to whom it is intended to appeal.
H.R. 1463 is opposed
by the American Public Health Association, the International Union of Police Associations, the American Nurses Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the Infectious Disease Society of America.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of accounts of three deaths in the last week or so from cardiac arrest in persons who received the smallpox vaccine. Health care officials cannot
positively rule out the smallpox vaccine as the cause or a contributing factor in these deaths.
The CDC has taken swift action to revise its guidelines and has indicated that there may be further revisions. These uncertainties about the known, and I hasten to add the unknown, risks of the smallpox vaccine have greatly increased the fear factor among prospective vaccinees. We should be doing all we can to obtain and assess the relevant information on the vaccine and smallpox risks. That cannot be done by using the process by which this bill is before us today. We have had no hearings, no markups, and no opportunity to perfect this bill on the floor with amendments. All we have is the Administration's proposal and a take it or leave it procedure.
I recommend that we listen to our first responders
, vote no on H.R. 1463, and get busy writing legislation we can all support.
THE HONORABLE JOHN D. DINGELL
(Contact: Laura Sheehan, 202-225-3641)
Prepared by the Democratic staff of the Committee on Energy and Commerce