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A referendum urging more transparency in the delivery of vaccines in Oak Park appears to have injected enthusiasm into local polling places. But village officials haven't been stricken with the same interest.
Oak Park voters supported the nonbinding ballot measure yesterday by a better than 2-to-1 margin, with all of the village's precincts reporting.
Barbara Mullarkey, 75, a lifelong Oak Parker and longtime advocate for vaccination transparency, fought to get the measure on the ballot, obtaining the 15 signatures needed from registered voters.
The referendum asked Oak Park to require those who administer vaccines to disclose all ingredients for the shots, and to advise patients that the medicine may contain an unsafe amount of mercury. According to the Cook County clerk's office, the referendum captured 67 percent of the vote (11,938 votes to 5,785).
Wednesday afternoon, Mullarkey, who is also president of the Illinois Vaccine Awareness Coalition, said she was overjoyed by the results.
"I'm delighted that people have stood up for transparency and full disclosure of vaccine ingredients," she said. "It's a victory for freedom of information."
She scoffed at Web comments on Wednesday Journal's OakPark.com, accusing the referendum of "fear mongering." Mullarkey hopes the village will act quickly to address the voter response, after an advisory referendum suggesting that Oak Park adopt a living wage languished for two years before it was struck down by the village board.
But Margaret Provost-Fyfe, director of the Oak Park Health Department, says no village action is forthcoming. She has spoken out against the referendum, saying that detailed information about vaccines is already provided on the Food and Drug Administration's website, and it would be a burden and send the wrong message if health care providers were forced to provide that information to every single patient, regardless of his or her interest.
Provost-Fyfe says it is "unfortunate" that the measure ever made it on the ballot. The only action village hall is taking is telling health care providers that the referendum is nonbinding, and to keep administering vaccines in the same fashion as previously. She says the referendum has no "sound scientific basis" and hopes it won't scare people away from getting vaccinated.
"There is no concern in the medical community at this time around any of the issues raised in this referendum," she said, later adding, "The village will not be taking any action whatsoever in this regard."
It takes just 15 signatures to place a measure on the ballot in a process governed by state law and implemented locally through the township government. Final approval to place a referendum on a ballot comes not from the township's governing board but by a vote of ordinary citizens who come to a sparsely attended annual town meeting.