Letter to the editor: ‘There are better ways to handle vaccine policy than the mandatory use of a specific MMR vaccine’

Camas resident Douglas Tweet offers his thoughts on House Bill 1638

I oppose HB 1638 now before the Washington State Legislature. This bill would remove certain exemptions to receiving the MMR vaccine in order for children to attend daycare or school, public or private.

Douglas Tweet
Douglas Tweet

I am not anti-vaccine. However, I am pro-choice, on vaccines.  There are better ways to handle vaccine policy than the mandatory use of a specific MMR vaccine, sold by one company, Merck, a monopoly.

Let’s look at the Japanese model. In 1989, the Japanese government made the MMR vaccine mandatory, but they experienced a large number of serious adverse reactions, and in 1993 banned MMR. Instead, they adopted individual vaccines for measles and rubella, and excluded mumps. Further, they made them optional and recommended not giving them at the same time.  We were living in Japan with our young children during those years.

This Japanese caution about vaccines has continued. In 2013, Japan suspended the Merck Gardasil vaccine due to many adverse reactions in young women.  Meanwhile, they have combined Measles and Rubella into a single vaccination, but still have kept Mumps separate. Many vaccines are optional in Japan. Their concern for child safety is paramount.

What has been the result of such a policy? Since 2015, Japan, a nation of 126 million people, has experienced annual numbers of measles cases ranging from 35 to several hundred. There has not been a catastrophic pandemic in spite of maintaining a voluntary system, while carefully monitoring adverse reactions.  And Japan still has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world, far lower than the US with its more aggressive vaccine schedule.

Why not adopt a policy similar to Japan’s in which the vaccines could be given separately and not at the same time, to reduce the simultaneous assault on a young child’s immune system? This gives concerned parents an option to the single and controversial MMR vaccine.

Hiroko Mori, former head of the Infectious Disease Division at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health, stated: “There are so many people who have suffered side effects. All we are asking is to establish the right to say ‘no.’ The right to choose should be recognized as a fundamental human right.”

I experienced a serious vaccine reaction myself in 2010. I received four vaccines at once, two in each arm. Within a day, my left arm became hot, red, and swollen at the injection site, and I had a high fever of 104 degrees. I went to the ER, but the fast spreading infection continued to grow.  Staff explained they were concerned about the infection reaching my heart, which could have been fatal. It took some time to fully recover. I have never experienced an infection like that before or since.

To follow up on my reaction to the vaccines, I submitted a VAERS report, with information supplied by my doctor. VAERS stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and is administered by the FDA and CDC. It is a national vaccine safety surveillance database of reports of adverse events after vaccination.  Reports may be submitted by vaccine recipients (or parents/guardians), health care providers, or others. VAERS encourages reporting any significant adverse event after vaccination, even if you are unsure whether a vaccine caused the event. Healthcare providers are required to report certain events. Each report adds valuable information to the database. For details, see:


Douglas Tweet, Ph.D.(Physics)

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