State Politics

Bennett bill would let parents choose vaccination schedule

MANATEE — A bill proposed by state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, would allow parents the option to choose a vaccination schedule for their children as long as all shots required by the health department are completed before entering school.

The bill’s genesis is the concern that infants could be susceptible to autism from the compound effects of vaccinations bunched together shortly after birth. Physicians don’t always offer the option to space the shots out over years, preferring to give them in bunches, Bennett said.

Bennett and his staff have researched the vaccine issue and he claims that in 1983, when babies got 10 shots at birth, the incidence of autism was one in 10,000 infants. In 2008, Bennett said, the health departments now require 36 shots and the rate of autism is one in 150.

“It’s mind-boggling, yet doctors want to fight this,” Bennett said. “I think drug manufacturers are afraid of the real facts coming out because of potential lawsuits from parents of autistic children.”

If passed, the bill would require doctors to explain to parents that they have an option, Bennett said.

“The real strength of the bill is the fact that a parent should have the right to use an alternative vaccination schedule rather than what the health department says and what doctors follow,” Bennett said. “There are hundreds of studies on each side of the vaccination issue and they go both ways so as a parent, they should have the right to exercise on the side of caution.”

A spokesman with the Florida Department of Health declined comment. The department doesn’t comment on pending legislation, he said.

Many of the parents of the 90 children enrolled at Pinnacle Academy in Lakewood Ranch believe their children’s development has been negatively affected by vaccinations, said school director Dr. Kirstina Ordetx.

One out of 10 families she sees in her private practice say their children’s development was impacted by vaccinations, Ordetx said.

“I have families that tell a common story,” Ordetx said. “It is a rather common story for parents to say their children may have or demonstrated a regression of development after a vaccine. I would say maybe one in 10 families that I see.”

With her own children, Ordetx has chosen a middle ground regarding vaccinations.

“As a parent, my husband and I have expressed our concerns to our pediatrician about what is in vaccines, and we appreciate that our pediatrician did not discredit our concerns,” Ordetx said. “I understand both sides. Pediatricians feel kids need to be vaccinated to keep them from harm. There are two sides and I think you have to meet in the middle.”

Bennett’s bill, which passed out of the Judiciary Committee earlier this week, also would ban mercury in all vaccines.

Some studies claim the tiny amounts of mercury used as a preservative in vaccines becomes harmful when infants get multiple shots, Bennett said.

“These shots all have a tiny bit of mercury in it and when you add them together the amount of mercury would be dangerous for a person weighing 275 pounds,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his bill was fueled by his friendship with Sarasota’s Gary Kompothecras, a chiropractor and passionate opponent of childhood vaccinations.

Kompothecras owns “1-800-Ask Gary,” a medical and lawyer referral service, and he said he also owns 50 medical clinics in Florida. Kompothecras has two autistic children.

“I know Dr. Gary and I know his wife and his two autistic children,” Bennett said. “He is the one who pushed me to propose the bill.”

Kompothecras was in Tallahassee this week lobbying for Bennett’s bill.

“It takes a toxin out of the vaccine and gives parents the option to choose what shots at what times as long as they get them before school,” Kompothecras said. “We are not anti-vaccine. We are for safe vaccine.”

Kompothecras said he believes children should be given vaccines starting when they start talking, around age 2, and have them staggered, right up until they are 6. And none should include mercury, Kompothecras said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.