Public Health Emergency
Title XXIX Public Health

Chapter 381 Public Health: General Provisions
Chapter 381.00315

Public health advisories; public health emergencies

The State Health Officer is responsible for declaring public health emergencies and issuing public health advisories.

(1)  As used in this section, the term:

(a)  “Public health advisory” means any warning or report giving information to the public about a potential public health threat. Prior to issuing any public health advisory, the State Health Officer must consult with any state or local agency regarding areas of responsibility which may be affected by such advisory. Upon determining that issuing a public health advisory is necessary to protect the public health and safety, and prior to issuing the advisory, the State Health Officer must notify each county health department within the area which is affected by the advisory of the State Health Officer’s intent to issue the advisory. The State Health Officer is authorized to take any action appropriate to enforce any public health advisory.

(b)  “Public health emergency” means any occurrence, or threat thereof, whether natural or man-made, which results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the public health from infectious disease, chemical agents, nuclear agents, biological toxins, or situations involving mass casualties or natural disasters. Prior to declaring a public health emergency, the State Health Officer shall, to the extent possible, consult with the Governor and shall notify the Chief of Domestic Security. The declaration of a public health emergency shall continue until the State Health Officer finds that the threat or danger has been dealt with to the extent that the emergency conditions no longer exist and he or she terminates the declaration. However, a declaration of a public health emergency may not continue for longer than 60 days unless the Governor concurs in the renewal of the declaration. The State Health Officer, upon declaration of a public health emergency, may take actions that are necessary to protect the public health. Such actions include, but are not limited to:

4.  Ordering an individual to be examined, tested, vaccinated, treated, or quarantined for communicable diseases that have significant morbidity or mortality and present a severe danger to public health. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to be examined, tested, vaccinated, or treated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience may be subjected to quarantine.

a.  Examination, testing, vaccination, or treatment may be performed by any qualified person authorized by the State Health Officer.

b.  If the individual poses a danger to the public health, the State Health Officer may subject the individual to quarantine. If there is no practical method to quarantine the individual, the State Health Officer may use any means necessary to vaccinate or treat the individual.

Any order of the State Health Officer given to effectuate this paragraph shall be immediately enforceable by a law enforcement officer under s. 381.0012.

View entire chapter:

MSEHPA – The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act

Signed into law – May 2002 – Florida Chapter 381

The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA) was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country as a template for a unified government response to acts of bioterrorism and to aid state legislatures in revising their public health laws to more effectively control epidemics.

Developed by The Centers for Law & the Public’s Health, the original version of this legislation contained a number of provisions granting broad new police powers to public health authorities to take over hospitals and other businesses, seize drug supplies, and destroy property without owners consent and without compensation to property owners. It granted new police powers to an unelected official allowing for the use of “any means necessary” to quarantine people and force mandatory vaccination in the event of a declared public health emergency.

Even though the language provides for a quarantine option for those who do not want to be vaccinated for health, religious or conscience reasons, the Florida statute stipulates that during a public health emergency the State Health Officer reserves the dictatorial power to use any means necessary to vaccinate or treat the individual, including the kind of restraining methods that law enforcement use to apprehend criminals (guns, militia).

What Is Wrong With This Legislation?

Public health agencies should have a sound, workable emergency plan in place in the event of a public health emergency, particularly biological and chemical attacks.  In developing plans and legislation to protect Americans, however, government policies must always respect the dignity and rights of persons, and no policy should place the life and liberty of citizens in the hands of an elite few who will have the power to take both from citizens without their consent.

According to the architects of this bill, this legislation was needed to protect the health and safety of citizens from bio-terrorism and epidemics. Aside from unnecessarily duplicating existing state natural disaster statutes, a careful analysis reveals that this legislation goes much further than necessary to perform the legitimate functions of the government and imposes a real threat to civil liberties:

  • an unelected official from the public health department (not the governor) may declare an emergency;
  • the health department is empowered to use law enforcement for forcibly quarantine or by “any means necessary” vaccinate, without any recognized exceptions;
  • an unelected bureaucrat can over-ride a physician’s recommendations that a high-risk patient not receive a vaccine;
  • infringes on health care providers’ freedom of conscience as it would force them to perform services they may object to;
  • unelected bureaucrats may do all of this without approval by the governor;
  • persons acting on behalf of this kind of directive have no liability whatsoever for damage

The MSEHPA bill used vague language to define the criteria for what constitutes an emergency. Allowing this key concept to be so broadly defined, the law gives unelected health officers the power to declare anything an emergency, from HIV infection to a few cases of influenza. “Terrorism” is defined so as to allow citizens and legitimate domestic organizations that criticize the government to be designated as “terrorist.”  As a result, the First Amendment rights of citizens who criticize government could feasibly be denied.

This plan failed to provide adequate judicial or legislative review of the emergency declaration and, as with other vaccine laws, it protects those empowered with police powers from liability. It shields the agents empowered by this legislation as well as subordinates working at their direction. No governor, legislator, public health official or other agent can be held accountable for deaths or health damage suffered by quarantined or vaccinated victims, or for damage to or loss of private property.

The Issue Of Forced Vaccination and Informed Consent Rights

The original version of this public health legislation was not well received by many states due to its coercive intent, so a modified version was introduced that does not make vaccination mandatory.  However,  Florida’s version of this legislation is the ORIGINAL model bill. Florida legislators sanctioned this unconstitutional deprivation of legislative authority and responsibility in May 2002. Thus, Florida’s bill does grant unelected health officials the power to force vaccination, using any means necessary.

This legislation has hidden consequences for civil rights that the public is either uninformed or misinformed about. The coercive provisions of this legislation constitute the most serious threat to the ethical standard of informed consent for medical interventions since the Nuremberg Code was issued following World War II. Giving agents employed by the state the power to use the state militia to arrest, quarantine and forcibly medicate citizens without their having the right to informed consent, legal counsel or recourse violates civil liberties and religious freedom rights.

This public health legislation should be a concern to every American and all defenders of liberty. The issue of forced vaccination is not about whether an individual should or should not receive a vaccine.  The issue of forced vaccination is about the value of human life and liberty.

No state of emergency in a free society justifies the sacrifice of the most sacred human right: the right to voluntarily decide what you are willing to risk your life or your child’s life for.  What it means to be free doesn’t get more basic than that.  The MSEHPA and the state laws that were passed with this code is a direct assault on civil liberties protected by the Constitution and it is a dangerous precedent for a nation that has always rejected any form of state sponsored repression under any circumstances.

For more information & references:

The Centers for Law & the Public’s Health

Association of American Physicians & Surgeons

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)