Monday, November 19, 2007

Parents ordered to court for kids' shots

The article below irritates and concerns me in way I cannot even describe. This is very, very wrong. Besides the obvious problem that parents are being denied the right to decide if they want to inflict immunizations on immunize their child or not, doesn't it seem stupid to expel the kids and then charge the parents with truancy? It seems like the school officials would at least be able to come up with a charge that didn't make them look foolish. I also didn't like the comment the judge makes at the end of the article!

(Okay, in the interest of transparency I should say that I almost fully immunized my two older kids, partially immunized my third child, but have no plans to immunize my fourth [or any others I might have]. The road to my current immunization stance has taken many years and is still in a state of development as I sort out my opinion of each and every vaccine individually. I do regret having the two older kids immunized without even a second thought. I wish I had put some amount of consideration toward it before I just went along with the mainstream thinking.)

Parents ordered to court for kids' shots

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer - Sat Nov 17, 6:09 PM ET

Scores of grumbling parents facing a threat of jail lined up at a courthouse Saturday to either prove that their school-age kids already had their required vaccinations or see that the youngsters submitted to the needle.

The get-tough policy in the Washington suburbs of Prince George's County was one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure its youngsters receive their required immunizations.

Two months into the school year, school officials realized that more than 2,000 students in the county still didn't have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class.

So Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse Saturday and either get their children vaccinated on the spot or risk up to 10 days in jail. They could also provide proof of vaccination or an explanation why their kids didn't have them.

By about 8:30 a.m., the line of parents stretched outside the courthouse in the county on the east side of Washington.

Many of them complained that their children already were properly immunized but the school system had misplaced the records. They said efforts to get the paperwork straightened out had been futile.

"It was very intimidating," Territa Wooden of Largo said of the letter. She said she presented the paperwork at the courthouse Saturday and resolved the matter.

"I could be home asleep. My son had his shots," said Veinell Dickens of Upper Marlboro, who also blamed errant paperwork.

Aloma Martin of Fort Washington brought her children, Delontay and Taron, in 10th and 6th grade, for their hepatitis shots. She said she had been trying to get the vaccinations for more than a month, since the school system sent a warning letter. She had an appointment for Monday, but came to the courthouse to be safe.

"It was very heavy handed," she said of the county's action. "From that letter, it sounded like they were going to start putting us in jail."

School officials deemed the court action a success. School system spokesman John White said the number of children lacking vaccinations dropped from 2,300 at the time the judge sent the letter to about 1,100 Friday.

After Saturday's session, 172 more students were brought into compliance, including 101 students who received vaccinations at the courthouse and 71 whose records were updated.

That still left more than 900 students out of compliance with vaccination requirements, White said.

"Obviously, we still have some more work to do," he said.

Any children who still lack immunizations could be expelled. Their parents could then be brought up on truancy charges, which can result in a 10-day jail sentence for a first offense and 30 days for a second.

Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn Ivey couldn't say Saturday whether he would prosecute parents who fail to comply.

"We have to sit down with school and health services," he said. "We haven't ruled anything out. We need to figure out where we stand."

White said the school system, with about 132,000 students, has been trying for two years to get parents to comply with state law. That law allows children to skip vaccines if they have a medical or religious exemption. It was unclear how many medical or religious exemptions were involved.

Maryland, like all states, requires children to be immunized against several childhood illnesses including polio, mumps and measles. In recent years, it also has required that students up to high school age be vaccinated against hepatitis B and chicken pox.

Nichols said nobody actually came before him Saturday, but he was there if any parent asked to see him.

The judge noted the unhappy looks of some of the kids in line waiting for vaccinations.

"It's cute. It looks like their parents are dragging them to church," Nichols said. (emphasis Cindee's)

Several organizations opposed to mass vaccinations demonstrated outside the courthouse. While the medical consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective, some people blame immunizations for a rise in autism and other medical problems.

"People should have a choice" in getting their children immunized, said Charles Frohman, representing a physicians' group opposed to vaccines.



Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

I just don't know what to do about all this. All three of mine are immunized, and Eliana is due to go in again in December. I just don't know.
Thanks for letting me know about this. I will be prayerfully considering all...

Kathie said...

As a parent, an American, and a Christian who has spent more than half of my life in foreign countries (some that claimed -claimed being the keyword-,being a democracy) I have had the not always pleasant opportunity to have a close up view of freedoms being forceably taken away from citizens. This immunization things smacks strongly of something that I would not call democratic or free. What is happening to the right of Americans to make their own decisions?
Thanks for bringing this to the attention of others.
Blessings from the mission field of Costa Rica

Anonymous said...

I understand your concern as a parent over having the choice as to whether or not to have your children immunized. That said, many individuals died in the past because of the lack of immunizations, or suffered from long-term results (my Mother had diptheria as a child and still has residual effects into her 70's).

I don't see this as the government overstepping their bounds (and believe me, I see that in many other areas). This, I truly believe is about the elimination of preventable diseases.

Because of the fact so many parents are now choosing to not immunize, I get the privledge at the ripe age of 42 of having to go get my MMRs. Not because my parents didn't believe in immunizing their children, but because I happen to have been born in a gap in time where most children did have these so-called "childhood" diseases and when vaccinations became available. I think no one is in disagreement of the seriousness of an adult contracting one of these completely preventable diseases.

Roberta said...

Hi Cindy~
Hope you're doing well.
This has been a topic of research for us as well. I was told by our chiropractor that the decline of most childhood diseases was claimed to be the introduction of vaccinations, yet the decline actually began before-hand.
Here is an article by Dr. Mendelsohn that could be a helpful start for someone wondering like Elise. (I must say above all unity with your husband is most important, knowing this can bring about intense discussion in some cases.)