After terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, and subsequent threats of biological warfare against U.S. citizens, federal health officials immediately began preparing for mass anthrax and smallpox vaccination campaigns. National vaccination programs targeting civilians, including children, were proposed in model state legislation created by Lawrence Gostin, of the Georgetown Center for Law and the Public’s Health with funding from the CDC. The MSEHP laws proposed to re-write state public health laws to give government health officials sweeping new power over citizens when public health “emergencies” were declared by the Secretary of DHHS or state governors.
The National Vaccine Information Center, along with the ACLU and other organizations concerned about lack of informed consent protections and other threats to civil liberties, opposed the legislation. NVIC took the position that, while it is critical for the U.S. to have a sound, workable plan to respond to an act of bioterrorism, as well as enough safe and effective vaccines stockpiled for every American who wants to use them, there are legitimate concerns about a plan which forces citizens to use vaccines without voluntary, informed consent.
The MSEHPA, which was passed by many states in 2002, included provisions that would allow state health officials to use the state militia to:
- take control of all roads leading into and out of cities and states;
- seize homes, cars, telephones, computers, food, fuel, clothing, firearms and alcoholic beverages for their own use (and not be held liable if these actions result in the destruction of personal property);
- arrest, imprison and forcibly examine, vaccinate and medicate citizens without consent (and not be held liable if these actions result in your death or injury).
Legislative Alternatives to the MSEHPA, LSU Law Center (April 21, 2003) http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/blaw/bt/MSEHPA_review.htm
ACLU on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (January 1, 2002) http://www.aclu.org/privacy/medical/14857res20020101.html
The Model State Health Emergency Powers Act: An Assault on Civil Liberties in the Name of Homeland Security (June 10, 2002) by Sue Blevins http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/HL748.cfm