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National registry would invade our children's privacy

Taken from Paper: Houston Chronicle, Date: Friday, 11/13/1998, Section: A, Page: 47


The claim to champion the health of children has been a consistent
rhetorical winner for U.S. politicians promoting more government spending
and control.

Under the pretense of aiding children, the latest program coming out of
Washington moves us one step closer to nationalized medicine.

Within six short months, plans will be made final to collect child
vaccination records around the country, establish a national database and
then ensure that all children and adults comply with government vaccine

The National Immunization Program, a project of the federal Centers for
Disease Control and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, will set up a
nationwide network of state and community-based computer registries to
include personal and medical records of all children from birth.

The database is expected to be operational within two to three years.

The goal, according to President Clinton, is "to make sure that every child
is now safe from every vaccine-preventable disease."

The result, however, will be to move us a giant step closer to making our
entire health-care system another government bureaucracy.

Do we really have a crisis concerning the immunization of children?
According to the CDC, "more than 90 percent of our 2-year-olds have actually
received the critical doses of routinely recommended vaccines."

More than 97 percent of children are fully immunized by the time they enter
school, according to the CDC, since vaccinations are virtually free in every
state and county health clinic across the nation.

Moreover, most states have already established their own immunization
registries for preschool children.

This is hardly a health crisis that requires another federal government
program, nor are the unvaccinated 2-year-olds necessarily the children of
neglectful parents.

Christian Scientists, for example, have religious objections to invasive
medical procedures. Others are concerned - and for good reason - about the
risks associated with vaccinations.

According to Pennsylvania Parents for Vaccine Awareness, as of December 1996
the federal government's National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had
paid nearly $1 billion to parents of children injured or killed by vaccines.

While vaccinations have prevented the spread of certain diseases, the sharp
decrease in childhood illness over the past century is largely the result of
improved sanitation and hygienic practices.

According to the Virginia-based National Vaccination Information Center,
vaccinations can be credited with, at best, only a small percentage of the
reduction in disease-related deaths among children.

Giving vaccinations all the credit for the decline in childhood diseases is
like crediting highway speed limits for the decline in accident-related
deaths, without taking into consideration the improvements in automobile and
highway design and the addition of safety features.

Promoters of the new national registry claim that its central purpose is to
collect children's immunization records and contact parents of children who
need immunizations.

While many parents might welcome such reminders, historical and recent
experiences with registries suggest that the new program will lead to
harassment, expanded data collection for nonmedical purposes and staggering

Worst of all, it will be a giant step toward nationalizing our entire
health-care system.

The National Immunization Program's aggressive outreach activities, dubbed
"Reminder/Recall methods," will harass and punish parents and health-care
providers who do not yield to government requirements.

These activities would include mailings, phone calls and home visits that
could lead to on-the-spot vaccinations. One can only imagine what will
happen to those who don't comply.

Parents should not be so naive as to assume that the database will include
only vaccination records. After all, most state immunization registries
already include data not related to health care.

Similarly, the National Immunization Program's goals are to "gather
wide-ranging information" and "to identify and target interventions in every
pocket of need."

The recommended core data set for immunization registry entries includes the
following personal information: Social Security number, race, primary
language, birth order, birth registration number, Medicaid number, parents'
names and parents' Social Security numbers.

Even if strong privacy protections can be put in place, the confidentiality
of such information is difficult to protect.

An immunization registry will impose heavy burdens on taxpayers and
health-care providers. It has already cost a staggering $417 million just to
set up the system, and billions more in taxpayer dollars will have to be
allocated to complete and administer the program.

Despite its goal of higher immunization rates and the rhetoric of protecting
children, the National Immunization Program is simply the latest attempt to
make our entire health-care industry a branch of the state.

Such a program would allow federal bureaucrats to invade our children's
privacy and violate their rights.

It's time Americans debate the appropriate role of government in this area.

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April 5, 2008

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