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Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) working behind the scenes to get pandemic bill passed

POSTED: October 5, 2009

In recent weeks, as public outrage grew stronger and this gained national attention, the bill seem to get stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee. A number of legislators have expressed concern about the bill publicly. But the Department of Public Health, as they admit on web postings, has been working behind the scenes with House staffers to get the bill back on the fast track. Last month the DPH initiated an internal PR campaign with the Legislature, sending them letters and emails and meeting with them, to persuade them that citizens' fears were unfounded.

DPH talking points to counter citizen outrage

The DPH's reasons that citizens fears are unfounded generally fall into two categories. Here's what they're telling people:

STATEMENT: "Bill S2028 does not MANDATE vaccines."

REBUTTAL: Technically, that's correct but it's extremely misleading. They can't "force" you to take a vaccine. But if they "believe that you need" a vaccine and you choose not to have one they can quarantine you against your will - essentially imprison you -- and fine you.

STATEMENT: "Although Bill S2028 gives the state broad extra-constitutional powers, we can trust our government not to abuse that."

REBUTTAL: Excuse me? The Massachusetts Legislature even abuses powers it doesn't have! And there is a tendency toward heavy handed state-level enforcement of questionable legitimacy, as when they use state police as parking attendants and "mall cops" at Logan Airport, who barely let you stop and let people out of your car to catch a plane.

Additionally: The proponents claim that bill S2028 is actually LESS oppressive than the current statutes. That assertion is simply false. Anyone who compares the current statutes to the bill will see that pretty clearly. (Interestingly, when pressed they don't defend that too vigorously!)

DPH PR campaign in State House and radio

The weakness of their arguments hasn't stopped the DPH and proponents of S2028 from their full-court press to push it through.  Here's just a sample of what people are seeing:

Letter that DPH delivered to every legislator

Here's what legislators are emailing their constituents who complain about S2028
The party line from the DPH

Here's what the bill's sponsor, Sen. Richard Moore, posted on WBUR's "CommonHealth" site:
Critics Rage as State Prepares for Flu Pandemic
"Richard T. Moore (D-Uxbridge), Senate Chairman of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Health Care and the Special Senate Committee on National Health Reform, writes that the latest target of anti-government advocates is Senate Bill No. 2028, a pandemic and emergency preparedness plan that gives officials authority to quarantine individuals if necessary . . .