Jail Time for Not Vaccinating in Maryland?

Jail Time for Not Vaccinating in Maryland?

by Barbara Loe Fisher

Tomorrow, Nov. 17, Prince George, Maryland State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivy (D) and the county's public health and education officials are bringing the power of the State down on parents who have not gotten their children injected with vaccines for chickenpox and hepatitis B. In a Nov. 13 press release issued by the Prince George's County Public Schools (http://www1.pgcps.org/interior.aspx?id=30956 ) and at a press conference that day, state officials made it clear they were going to use whatever means they had to use to force the children to get vaccinated. Ivy said he was prepared to throw the parents whose children had not gotten their shots in jail: "We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but it's got to be done. I'm willing to move forward with legal action." The parents of children, who have been kicked out of school for failing to get their shots and are subject to state truancy laws, are being summoned to the Prince George's County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro on Saturday with their children to get them vaccinated on-site or face fines and jail time.

Yesterday, in two televised debates on CNN with longtime national vaccine policymaker William Shaffner, M.D. of Vanderbilt, and on MSNBC with Prince George's County Health Officer Donald Shell, M.D., I made the following points:



1) Terrorizing and threatening parents with jail time for not getting their children a chickenpox shot is not the way to handle the situation;

2) Some of the children may have had serious reactions to previous vaccinations and their parents are only trying to protect them from harm;

3) Even though it is unclear why all of the parents have not complied with the new vaccine requirements, when government officials use threats and intimidation to force parents to do what they want them to do, parents will fear and mistrust government officials;

4) There are many new vaccines being developed that will be added to the childhood schedule and what has happened in Maryland brings up the question that many parents are asking: How many more vaccines are children going to be forced to get to be able to get a public education? Many parents think too many vaccines are already required;

5) Chickenpox is not smallpox and hepatitis B is not polio. Hepatitis B is not an infection that can be transmitted in the school setting and chickenpox is mild for most children. These diseases do not fit the model of highly contagious diseases with a high rate of complications leading to permanent injury and death that have led to state vaccine requirements in the past;

6) Although Maryland and other states may allow medical and religious exemptions, they are very difficult for parents to obtain. Doctors cannot easily write medical exemptions that are not second- guessed by public health officials, who require strict adherence to narrow contraindications blessed by the CDC. Often parents, who attempt to file religious exemptions, are thrown into rooms and grilled about the sincerity of the religious beliefs;

7) Parents are wondering why every vaccine that industry produces is always automatically recommended for universal use by the CDC and then mandated;

8) The vaccine safety and informed consent debate is becoming more intense because more parents are reporting that their children are regressing into poor health after receiving many vaccines. Vaccines carry risks of seizures, brain inflammation and even death and often high risk children are not screened out of the program;

9) It is time for the people to take back the power - through their elected representatives - to decide which vaccines their children should have to take to go to school. In the past few decades, legislatures have given up their power to vote on which new vaccines will be mandated and have handed that power over to public health officials who have never met a vaccine they did not want to mandate;

10) The ethical principle of informed consent that applies to every other medical procedure that carries risks should also be applied to vaccination. Everyone should have the right to make an informed, voluntary vaccination choice.

There are many reasons why children do not receive vaccines. Some parents want to vaccinate their children but do not have access to public health clinics that are open during times that are convenient for parents. There may be cost and affordability issues. Others want to exempt their children from certain vaccines for reasons of religious belief or conscience but, as is the case in Maryland, cannot file a religious exemption unless they refuse all vaccines. Some may have children who have regressed into poor health after previous vaccinations and believe their children are genetically or otherwise at high risk for suffering vaccine reactions but can't find a doctor to write a medical exemption and do not have religious beliefs that qualify them for a religious exemption. Others are opposed to all vaccine use because they have determined that vaccines are not necessary, safe or effective.

Whatever the reasons for parents not vaccinating their children with all state mandated vaccines, it is inappropriate for state officials to threaten parents with jail time. Reportedly, there are about 6,000 truant students in the state of Maryland. Are the parents of the other 4,000 students who are missing from school also being given deadlines and facing jail time their truant children?

Or could this military action by what some parents are referring to as "The Vaccine Police" be simply a case of an eager State's Attorney looking for a political platform teaming up with over-zealous health and education officials to achieve a 100 percent vaccination rate with all state-mandated vaccines in Maryland?

Whatever the case, hopefully the several thousand children showing up with their parents at the courthouse tomorrow to get vaccinated will be carefully screened for pre-existing health conditions that could put them at high risk for suffering severe reactions and their parents will be fully informed about how to monitor their children for symptoms of vaccine reactions. In the zeal to implement public policy, what health and education officials often forget is that individual responses to pharmaceutical products vary. The one-size-fits-all approach increases the risk of side effects for those genetically and otherwise biologically at higher risk and that is just one of many good reasons why the right to informed consent to vaccination is a human right.

If you live in a state which does not have philosophical or conscientious belief exemption and are interested in educating your elected state representatives about vaccination and the need for informed consent protections in vaccine laws in your state, please contact NVIC at nvicINFO@gmail.com

Maryland Vaccine Exemption Form:

New Chickenpox and Hepatitis B Vaccine Requirements in Maryland:

Total Vaccine Requirements for children living in Maryland:

November 13, 2007 Press Release from Prince George, MD Public School System

School, Health Department Working Together to Immunize All School Children County Schools, Government Go to Court to Provide Children's Immunizations

Putting the educational and health needs of children first, Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) and the County Health Department announced today that parents have been ordered to appear in court so their children can become compliant with State immunization requirements.

"Children should not be deprived of an education when our County offers free immunizations. This is a public health and children's rights issue that we are determined to correct," said Board of Education Chair R. Owen Johnson, Jr., who made the announcement today outside the Circuit Court of Prince George's County. "Children need to be in school to learn. Every day they are not permitted to attend school because they have not received their vaccinations is a missed opportunity."

On Saturday, November 17, 2007, the first of a series of hearings will be held in the Circuit Court of Prince George's County, 14735 Main Street, Upper Marlboro. Parents will appear with 1,671 children, who will receive needed vaccinations administered by the Prince George's County Health Department's licensed health care professionals.

"One of the most important things parents can do to protect their children from vaccine-preventable diseases is to make sure their children receive all their immunizations," said Donald Shell, M.D, M.A, Health Officer "Working in partnership with our county's schools, our goal is to provide immunizations to all children in need. With immunization of children, parents must partner with Health Department to authorize the delivery of services to their child."

The School System and Health Department have given parents of more than 2,300 students currently out of compliance with State school immunization requirements ample notice of the impending court dates. The following steps have been taken to notify parents of the severity of non-compliance:

1. Letters were sent to the homes of students not in compliance stating the deadline to acquire immunizations. These letters first mentioned the possibility of being summoned to Court.

2. Letters were sent to Physicians on April 24, 2006 to inform them of the new state immunization requirements that went into effect on September 1, 2006.

3. Additional immunization clinics were scheduled on Saturdays, evenings, and at additional sites.

The following steps will be taken if parents/guardians fail to respond:

1. Their name will be forwarded to the Court Liaison for referral to Circuit Court.

2. Parents will receive a letter from the Circuit Court Judge commanding their appearance in Court.

3. When parents appear in Court, the Judge will issue a verbal reprimand and direct them to have their children immunized on site.

4. The Health Department will be on-site to immunize non-compliant students.

5. Students will return to school as soon as they receive their required immunizations.

If a parent refuses to attend the Court hearing and/or allow their child to be immunized at Court, a Pupil Personnel Worker will prepare a packet that will facilitate parental referral to Court for further action


Anonymous said...

Barbara Leo Fisher,

Fantastic job on CNN!

The doctor with the theatrical lab coat, grey hair, and judgemental attitude does not fool the insiders who live this issue.

I hope your solid talking points as featured on your blog become common speech for bringing the issue mainstream.

The media is not focusing in on why the majority of parents are avoiding vaccinations. Are you working with TACA, Jenny McCarthy or other organizations?

I'd like to add some commentary/perspectives as a parent.

My son is a "vaccination martyr" for 'the cause' of everyone else's public health. The debt he has to pay spans the rest of his life, while dragging his entire family along for the 'rest of his life' as a vaccination overload collateral damage survivor.

A parent is dutiful to consider if a child is being put blindly into harms way. Ethical choices come to bare - how many people is the appropriate 'risk management' number to suffer a life long reaction in order to avoid another person's disease deadly reaction? Do the life long side effects of thousands weigh equally on the scales of one death - no one wants to be on either side. Would the mother of a child who died from a disease like chicken pox say I would rather have a child with autism, or thousands of children with autism should exist in the population, than have my child die of chicken pox? Does any doctor imposing vaccinations think that just because he/she admittedly has advanced degrees in medicine that we believe he/she has ANY valid research behind the true safety of an aggressive and over-sized immunization schedule?

How are we to trust an agency such as the CDC who has conflicting missions - to both assure full immunization compliance while insuring the safety of such compliance.

The public school require compliance to vaccinations, yet do not have compliance to the side effects seen in the school - they do not comply to IDEA and NCLB Federal Laws.

Until there is valid science behind autism 'causation', these doctors can stand in lie with their sad stories of children who get a disease, while we attend to our child with life long side effects. In the mean time, my son deserves a purple heart for going to the "war of getting vaccinated at any cost" in order to avoid other sad stories.

Ms. Fisher, you are an articulate spokesperson.

Suzette Harris
Tampa, Florida
(Youtube regarding lack of education - search Suzette Harris)

StephenH said...

As a person who has Autism, I beleive that vaccines should be VOLUNTARY, and they should abolish CDC and WHO quotas for vaccines. Additionally, parents should have the right to opt out entirely, be able to get vaccines in smaller doses, etc. There should be NO JAIL TIME for any parent who wishes to not vaccinate. Additionally, Thermisol should be BANNED!

Kim said...

THANK YOU for what you do!

Rane dae said...

I'm about to move to Maryland and this absolutely frightens me. Here is Washington state, vaccines are completely optional for schools and although I feel a responsibility to vaccinate for certain things, the concept of mandatory Chicken Pox and Hep B is frightening. I might check out the laws in VA and DC. Or look in to homeschooling.