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CDC and Public Health Academicians Propose Mandatory Vaccination and Treatment for "Infectious Diseases"

December 3, 2001

In the wake of the September 11 terrorism, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed unprecedented emergency medical legislation for the states. If enacted, "The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act" would grant governors and public-health authorities broad powers to impose medical treatment on citizens.

The model bill goes much further than national defense and bioterrorism and gives state public-health officials new police powers to control epidemics of "infectious diseases."

"Infectious Diseases" Defined

Under the proposed legislation, the term "infectious disease" is defined as "a disease caused by a living organism." The draft bill states, "An infectious disease may, or may not, be transmissible from person to person, animal to person, or insect to person." [emphasis added]

New State Medical Police Powers Proposed

In addition to granting governors and state public-health officials new police powers to protect Americans against bioterrorist attacks, the proposed legislation also would grant them the authority to:
  • Force individuals suspected of harboring an "infectious disease" to undergo medical examinations;
  • Track and share individuals' personal health information, including blood and body tissue samples (genetic information) as well as the names and addresses of persons whom the "infectious" person may have contracted the disease from or may have spread it to;
  • Force persons to be vaccinated, treated, or quarantined for infectious diseases;
  • Mandate all health-care providers to report all cases of persons who harbor any illness or health condition that may be caused by an epidemic or infectious agent and might pose a "substantial risk" to a "significant number" of people or cause long-term disability (note: "substantial risk" and "significant number" are not defined);
  • Force pharmacists to report any "unusual or increased prescription rates" that may be caused by epidemic diseases;
  • Declare a "state of public health emergency" and consequently preempt existing state laws, rules, and regulations (including privacy, medical licensing, and property-rights laws, rules, and regulations);
  • Control public and private property (including pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, nursing homes, other health-care facilities, communication devices, and food). The state would be required to pay "just compensation" to any owner of facilities or materials;
  • Mobilize all or any part of the "organized militia into service to the State" to help enforce the state orders;
  • Ration firearms, explosives, combustibles, food, fuel, and alcoholic beverages; and
  • Impose fines and penalties to enforce the state and public-health authorities' orders.

Authority Without Liability?

While granting these incredibly broad police powers to public-health authorities, the proposed legislation would exempt from liability those carrying out the orders (except if they acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct).

The proposed model legislation was prepared for the CDC by the Center for Law and the Public's Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. The preamble to the October 23 draft legislation notes that: "In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, our nation has come to the realization that the government's foremost responsibility is to protect the health, safety, and well being of its citizens. New and emerging dangers--including emergent and resurgent infectious diseases and incidents of civilian mass casualties--pose serious and immediate threats to the population. A renewed focus on the prevention, detection, management, and containment of public health emergencies is thus called for.... The exercise of emergency health powers is designed to promote the common good."

The proposed legislation goes on to claim that "The rights of people to liberty, bodily integrity, and privacy must be respected to the fullest extent possible consistent with the overriding importance of the public's health and security.... This Act is necessary to protect the health and safety of the citizens of this State."

What Can Concerned Citizens Do?

Alert citizens who are concerned about the proposed legislation should contact their state officials (governors, representatives, and senators), attorneys general, and local officials (city or town and county officials). The addresses for these officials are available at local public libraries or on the Internet.

They should also contact U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (see contact information below).

Additional Groups Working on "The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act"

The CDC and public-health academicians are working with the following organizations to get "The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act" passed in states across the country:
  • National Governors Association,
  • National Conference of State Legislatures,
  • Nat. Assoc. of State and Territorial Health Officials,
  • Nat. Assoc. of City and County Health Officers, and
  • National Association of Attorneys General.
Concerned citizens might also want to voice their concerns with officials from these groups representing their city/town, county and state. Contact information is provided in below. Finally, you can view "The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act" in its entirety at the following Web site:

Contact Information for Groups Working on "The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act"

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Tel: (877) 696-6775 (Washington, DC)

National Governors Association
Tel: (202) 624-5300 (Washington, DC)

National Conference of State Legislatures
Tel: (303) 830-2200 (Denver, CO)

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Tel: (202) 371-9090 (Washington, DC)

Nat. Association of County and City Health Officials
Tel: (202) 783-5550 (Washington, DC)

National Association of Attorneys General
Tel: (202) 326-6000 (Washington, DC)

This article was originally published in the November/December 2001 issue of Health Freedom Watch.

"The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act" would grant governors and public-health authorities new, broad police powers.