© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

McLean County GOP Chair Raises Concerns About Vaccine Safety

Connie Beard
McLean County Republican Party chair Connie Beard.

The chair of the McLean County Republican Party is urging her members to lobby against a bill that would require incoming sixth-graders to get the HPV vaccine that protects against certain cancers.

Connie Beard said her primary concern with HB 4870 is that it currently does not give parents the right to refuse the HPV vaccination.

“There are no exemptions given either for medical reasons or for a parent’s own belief and desire that this is not an inoculation that their child needs. It’s sexually transmitted diseases it’s working with. And I can think of many reasons why a parent would not be in favor, at that age and stage of a child’s life, to deal with that,” Beard said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

Beard recently emailed local Republicans urging them to lobby against the bill. The email raised safety concerns about the vaccine and claimed it’s led to “death in some 400 cases.”

However, there is no evidence to suggest HPV vaccination can lead to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The HPV vaccine is widely considered safe and effective for preventing HPV-related infections and cancers. The CDC urges pediatricians to recommend HPV vaccination for all their patients, beginning at age 11.

Beard said she's fine with it being recommended. But she said she opposes any law that doesn't allow parents to seek exemptions.

“To eliminate parents being able to question those is a mistake. We should always have the privilege of checking and asking questions about what we’re putting into our children,” she said. 

Almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life without HPV vaccination, according to the CDC. While most HPV infections will go away on their own, infections that don’t go away can cause certain types of cancer. HPV infections and cervical precancers have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use.

Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11-12; the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. The bill in Springfield would require students entering sixth grade to receive the HPV vaccine and complete the series upon entering ninth grade.

Beard said she believes vaccines are important for the vast majority of children, and she stressed that she was not a conspiracy theorist when it comes to vaccines. But during a WGLT interview, Beard made several claims that are common among vaccine-hesitant Americans.

Beard said she has friends with children who “within days of having their inoculations shifted into autism.” However, multiple studies have shown there is no link between childhood vaccinations and autism, one of the main fears cited by parents who choose to opt out of vaccinations.

Beard denied that the link between autism and vaccines had been debunked.

“There is always the need to question when big money is involved. And when doctors and hospitals and clinics and pharmaceuticals are so heavily dependent on vaccinations as an income source, there should be the ability to take pause and take a step back and look at the data honestly,” Beard said. “I’m not saying the pharmaceutical industry is evil, or that doctors are moneymakers and that’s all their concerned with. By no means! My own children have been helped by medical profession over and over again. But I do say you should not remove parental control over children for the sake of some sort of mass comfort level.”

Should children be required to get other types of vaccines, such as the one that protects against measles, mumps and rubella?

“That’s a serious question. And I don’t have a pat answer for that,” Beard said. “There are children that have adverse reactions to those shots. There are some testing paths to determine whether a child will have an adverse reaction. But those are not readily available,” she said. “Parents are just pushed, with expectations, that you need to have your child have the shots. And parents are usually obliging and willing because they’ve been told they need to have this.”

When pressed on the “400 deaths” claim, Beard offered to provide the background information she used to write the March 4 email to McLean County Republicans about the HPV bill. She sent WGLT a 718-page paper called “Truth Will Prevail: 1,200 Studies That Refute Vaccine Claims,” and a link to a legal firm’s Vaccine Injury Help Center that again falsely claims that “the HPV vaccine has also caused death.”

She also sent WGLT a 74-page PowerPoint created by the Pennsylvania Immunization Education Program that says there is indeed “no pattern suggesting deaths caused by vaccine.”

In a follow-up email to WGLT, Beard said to “note that my position is not banning vaccinations, and I do believe for the majority of children they are important.”

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.