NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

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Home District Column 9/21/2016
September 22nd, 2016

Good news. At present it looks like there will be no need for any special session of the legislature.  The downward trend in tax receipts had slowed in August just enough that efforts to reduce spending by state agencies will get us through this year’s budget. Things will change over the next three months, but addressing any budget shortfalls can now wait until January. Also attempts by some in the Legislature to turn Senator Kintner’s lack of discretion into a special session has run out of steam. Kintner has said he will not resign. Thankfully there will be no special session over cyber-sex and the whole country will not have an opportunity to laugh at Nebraska’s cyber-sex scandal. Senator Kintner was elected by the citizens of District 2, it is their decision if he should represent them. He was fined $1,000 by the Accountability and Disclosure Commission for misuse of state property; the system we have in place works, there is and never was any need for further action by the Legislature but Senator Chambers will not let the matter rest, he has daily made it clear we will be discussing the issue next session.

We were right: over the last two sessions we successfully led filibusters of (LB18) proposed legislation to make all meningitis vaccinations mandatory for school children.  To start with, the legislation was badly written; there exists meningococcal vaccinations, but not for all causes of meningitis per se.  Meningitis is a medical condition, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain. The rare condition is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but can be a result of injury, cancer, or certain drugs.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has for many years recommended that adolescent children be vaccinated for Meningococcal bacteria disease caused by 4 of 12 known bacterial strains (ACWY).  The issue was that two new (Men B) vaccinations for a B strain of the bacteria had just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The CDC recommended those vaccines only for individuals who are at increased risk due to existing medical conditions. LB18 as written would have mandated those expensive vaccinations be given twice to all children at the age of 12 and then at 16.

This month the American Academy of Pediatrics released Men B guidelines to their members which agrees with CDC recommendations, stating that they should only be given in rare cases. This latest announcement by the pediatric doctors gives credence to our successful filibuster of a bad bill.

In the case of Meningococcal (ACWY) vaccinations, the public/private medical system has worked with over a 70% vaccination rate and there is no need for a statutory mandate. There have been no cases of the disease in Nebraska’s adolescent population over the last 4 years and only two cases have been reported in children between the ages of 12 to 17 over the last 13 years.

Not all immunizations and the need for them are created equal: unlike Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR vaccine), meningococcal bacteria disease is not highly infectious and by the time American children reach adolescence, the vast majority have developed natural immunity to the bacteria. Plus while the MMR vaccine has a long lifespan with a 99.5 % effectiveness, the Men-B vaccinations are short lived, a recent New England Journal of Medicine study noted that only 66% of students given the vaccine developed protective antibodies.

The point needs to be stressed, even if a child has received the vaccinations, they can still be at risk of meningitis from other sources. A January death of a vaccinated Nebraska teenager from meningitis symptoms that was linked to an unrelated streptococcal pneumonia bacteria is proof enough that vigilance by parents is the best defense against a very rare disease.

The proposed legislation was first introduced in 2012. It was obvious by reading testimony from the bill’s hearing before the Education Committee that it was introduced by request of the drug companies who make the new vaccinations. It never made it out of committee that year, this time the legislation was presented as protecting the children.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room #1107
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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