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
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
"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
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
- Force pharmacists to report any "unusual or increased
prescription rates" that may be caused by epidemic
- 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
- 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:
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:
- National Governors Association,
- National Conference of State Legislatures,
- Nat. Assoc. of State and Territorial Health Officials,
- Nat. Assoc. of City and County Health Officers,
- National Association of Attorneys General.
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
Model State Emergency Health Powers Act" would grant
governors and public-health authorities new, broad