A federally generated “model” health bill critics say gives governors absolute power in the event of a “health emergency” is steadily progressing through the states, say health and legislative monitoring organizations who are tracking its progress.

According to its most recent analysis, the American Legislative Exchange Council – which has been tracking the bill’s progress – said most states have either passed or are considering passing the “Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.”

Sue Blevins, a spokeswoman with the Institute for Health Freedom, agreed, noting that an analysis by her group found a total of 19 states so far have approved some form of the measure, which was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and introduced to state leaders last year following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Blevins said she wasn’t sure how many states have rejected the bill so far, but said she and other IHF analysts are looking into it.

“We don’t know for sure” how many states have failed to pass the legislation, she said. “Because of the language of the legislative activity in some states, it’s not clear if it was outright rejected or if the legislative session ended before lawmakers could act.”

James G. Hodge, Jr., of the Center for Law and the Public’s Health – a Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University facility – said a few states like Kentucky, California and Wyoming have outright rejected the bill this legislative session, but said the center remains hopeful for its passage in future sessions.

“There are so many states where our news tells us we didn’t actually pass [the bill] this time but we’re going to reintroduce it,” said Hodge, noting that budget negotiations or other issues tended to delay some legislatures from taking the measure up.

“In those states … I don’t consider it a rejection. It’s just a timing issue, really,” he said.

The center also tracks the bill’s progress and published an updated version of its analysis on Tuesday. (Editor’s note: You must have an Adobe Acrobat reader to view the linked .pdf file.)

Touted by supporters as an anti-terrorism tool, WorldNetDaily reported in March that according to the bill’s authors at the CDC and The Center for Law and the Public’s Health, it was “prepared pursuant to Healthy People 2010, a Department of Health and Human Services nationwide health-promotion agenda.”

However, critics have blasted it as a means to allow governors dictatorial rule simply by declaring a public-health emergency. Under provisions of the model bill, state leaders would be permitted to confiscate property, seize firearms, quarantine entire cities, and vaccinate citizens – even against their will. Critics also contend governors already have enough power to assume authority in the event of an emergency.

Blevins said another questionable provision in the model legislation removes public and private sector workers from any liability for administering vaccines ordered by government officials to treat the population in the event of a disease outbreak.

She said that’s important because a few public interest health groups have demonstrated that some vaccines can be harmful or lethal to large sectors of the population – including smallpox vaccines, which the federal government is said to be developing as a hedge against a potential future terrorist bio-attack. But under the legislation, said Blevins, not only can governors order citizens to receive these oft-dangerous vaccines, but everyone involved will be protected from liability – even if they know it’s dangerous.

One public health organization that is trying to warn the public about dangerous vaccines is the National Vaccine Information Center. Headed by Barbara Loe Fisher, the group said in a statement last month that it endorses a June decision “by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) [in] advising against releasing vaccinia (smallpox) virus vaccine for mass use by the general population.”

NVIC officials attended CDC-sponsored information sessions held this spring in Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, San Antonio and St. Louis. And in each location, NVIC officials said, the CDC never once demonstrated an urgent need to vaccinate the American public.

“In all of the meetings to discuss smallpox vaccination options, there was no credible evidence presented to suggest that the smallpox virus was going to be intentionally released or could be successfully used by terrorists as a bioterrorism weapon,” said Fisher’s June 24 statement.

“In fact, CDC experts continued to insist the theoretical probability of the eradicated virus being intentionally released was ‘very low,'” she continued. “And yet, plans are now going forward to intentionally release the very reactive live vaccinia virus into our population by exposing at least 20,000 health care workers and their close contacts to the very real risks of injury and death from the most reactive vaccine humans have ever used.”

Fisher said her group agrees with the government’s decision to stockpile smallpox vaccine for emergencies, but added: “We are not in an emergency situation.”

Related stories:

Emergency powers bill gaining momentum

Bill would give governors absolute power

Some may refuse smallpox shots

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