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Vaccination bill killed amid opposition from public

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After listening to Hawaii residents speak out against vaccines, saying they cause everything from autism to the Zika virus, Hawaii lawmakers killed a bill to speed up the state’s process for adopting federal vaccination guidelines.

The bill would have allowed the state Health Department to more easily adopt the federal rules, which some fear would result in more vaccinations. Under the bill, the department would have 90 days to adopt rules.

Immediately after hearing opposition to the bill, Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee, said Thursday it wouldn’t move forward. Her announcement came before the usual time when lawmakers decide on the bills.

Baker (D, West Maui-South Maui) said the bill didn’t pass because there seemed to be “so much confusion and a lot of misinformation” about what it would do.

Sen. Will Espero, who is on Baker’s committee, said he hasn’t seen a lawmaker do that before.

“Normally she would wait to the end of the agenda,” Espero (D, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) said. “But in this case she felt that it might be best before we get to the other bill to just share with them that, ‘FYI, I hear you and I’ve made the decision.’”

Baker’s decision shows how the public can be involved in making laws, he said.

Supporters of the bill say it would have helped the DOH address public health crises quickly. They said given the potential for diseases to spread rapidly, it’s important to be able to adopt vaccination rules swiftly.

Opponents of the bill spoke out against mandatory vaccinations, saying their side effects are harmful and that people should have the right to make their own health decisions.

“We’re all about freedom,” said Renee Kawelo, who opposed the bill. “We want you to have the choice to decide. If you want a vaccine, great. Go vaccinate yourself.”

Kawelo said she doesn’t want to vaccinate her children because vaccines could make them sick.

Vaccinations are a hot-button issue across the nation. For decades critics have said vaccines can cause debilitating side effects — most notably autism, which scientific research has debunked.

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