I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the parents in Prince George’s County, Maryland, who were threatened with jail time by public school officials if they didn’t get their kids vaccinated with chickenpox and hepatitis B shots. Hundreds of moms and dads lined up at a local courthouse over the weekend–many pointing out that it was the school system’s paperwork errors that were to blame:
The families appeared at the request of Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. of Prince George’s County Circuit Court, who is in charge of juvenile issues. Judge Nichols had sent letters this week to the homes of more than 800 households with children in public schools, strongly recommending that the children be immunized Saturday at the courthouse, where health department workers had set up tables to process paperwork and give shots, or that parents prove that the children had already been immunized in accordance with state law.
This year, the State of Maryland added the requirement that children have shots for hepatitis B and chickenpox in addition to other vaccinations including polio, mumps and measles.
That letter came on the heels of another sent on Nov. 1, by the Prince George’s County state’s attorney, Glenn F. Ivey, informing parents that their children would be withdrawn from school until the school received proof of vaccination. The letter also informed parents that if their children were not attending school, they might be subject to criminal charges with a maximum penalty of 10 days in jail and a fine of $50 per day of absence…Some said they had already had their children immunized and had sent that information to the school. One such parent, Jerome Lofton of Fort Washington, arrived early with his family and stood in the cold amid television cameras and photographers until officers allowed people to enter the building, through metal detectors.
Mr. Lofton, who said his son had been immunized, was infuriated. “We shouldn’t have had to come here,” he said as he left the building after proving to health care workers that his son had all of his shots.
WaPo has more:
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’ve experienced the intimidation of the vaccine bullies firsthand. I wrote about getting dropped by my son’s pediatrician in 2004 for questioning conventional wisdom about giving the hep B vaccine to babies in 2004:
Why on earth should we vaccinate our newborn baby against Hepatitis B – a virus that is contracted mostly through intravenous drug use and sexual contact? That is the question my husband and I had for the doctors and nurses at the hospital where our son was born two and a half months ago.
We didn’t get very good answers. It was “convenient,” “recommended” and “routine,” the medical staff assured us. We wanted more information. A nurse gave us a brochure, which explained that babies whose mothers had the Hep B virus were at high risk of developing acute Hep B infections. Well, I tested negative for Hep B. The Centers for Disease Control named unprotected sex, IV drug use and being stuck with a needle on the job as the likeliest routes of Hep B transmission. Well, my husband and I both work primarily from home, our two children stay at home, and neither we nor our 3-year-old daughter nor our baby (for heaven’s sake!) live the Kid Rock-and-Pamela Anderson Lee lifestyle.
When we told the hospital staff that we simply wanted more time to think about giving the Hep B shot to our son – doesn’t “informed consent” mean we should be truly informed? – we were badgered aggressively. Some lectured us about the need to “get on the proper vaccination schedule.” Others warned that Maryland, like more than 40 other states, requires all schoolchildren to be vaccinated for Hep B. Teachers, however, are not subject to the mandate, which is driven not just by altruistic concern for children’s health. Ohio legislator Dale Van Vyven snuck the Hep B mandate into a 1998 hazardous-waste bill at the behest of profit-maximizing vaccine manufacturers’ lobbyists.
The “everybody does it” and “for the greater good” arguments worked when we were overcautious, over-trusting, first-time parents who submitted our daughter to every single vaccine without question. This time, we resolved not to be rushed or bullied. We declined to give our son the politically correct Hep B shot, decided to do more research, and then took up the issue with our pediatrician.
Boy, were we in for a rude awakening. Our doctor parroted the American Academy of Pediatrics line and mindlessly emphasized the efficacy of vaccines in eradicating childhood diseases. Well, we weren’t questioning their collective efficacy. We questioned what the individual health benefits and health risks to our newborn were. Physicians have blindly plied vaccines before that have done more harm than good. A childhood rotavirus vaccine, for example, was approved for widespread use in 1998 and withdrawn from the market less than a year later after causing an increase in the incidence of painful bowel obstruction among infants.
Our doctor, however, pooh-poohed our inquiries about potential side effects. He seemed to have no idea what those risks were and no interest in finding out. He was also incredibly condescending: “95 percent of what you read on the Internet” is unreliable, he sermonized, as if we were too dumb to separate scientific fact from fraud.
In the end, we concluded that some of the vaccines were more worth the risks than others. At my son’s two-month checkup, the pediatrician expected him to receive a triple-combination shot called “Pediarix” (consisting of Hep B, inactivated polio, and DTaP, which covers diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), as well as HiB (for certain bacterial infections) and Prevnar (for meningitis and blood infections). I reiterated my refusal of Hep B, accepted DTaP and HiB, and asked to put off polio and Prevnar. In response, I received a threat: Get all the vaccines or get out of our practice.
“Informed consent”? Ha. This was uninformed coercion.
We’re leaving for another practice, a little bitter but wiser. The strong-arm tactics of the medical establishment mustn’t intimidate parents from challenging the universal vaccine orthodoxy. When it comes to protecting our children’s health, skepticism is the best medicine.
Now, as I’ve said before, I’m no anti-vaccine absolutist. My kids are up-to-date, but I refused to be coerced or bullied into anything over the past three years. The Prince George’s County parents should take the same position. The problem lies with the physicians who are unwilling to discuss the risks of vaccines, the pro-vaccination groups that provide incorrect information about the duration of protection, and the physicians who refuse to care for children who are not “fully” vaccinated. The problem is compounded by policymakers who pass laws barring children from school if they have not received the Hep B vaccine.
Mandatory chickenpox vaccination is also questionable:
Scientists said on Thursday that immunising children against varicella could increase the risk of shingles in adults.
The team, at Britain’s Public Health Laboratory Service, said that although vaccination would save thousands of lives over time, thousands of elderly people could also die from the complications of herpes zoster.
Writing in the journal Vaccine, they called for a re-evaluation of the policy of mass varicella vaccination that has been introduced already in the United States and is imminent in many other countries. In 1995, the varicella vaccine was approved for use in children older than 1 year in the US and is now required for school entry.
Dr. Marc Brisson and his team report that adults living with children have more exposure to the virus and enjoy high levels of protection against shingles. Being close to children means that adults are exposed to the varicella, which acts like a “booster” vaccine against reactivation of the infection, they believe. But if all children were vaccinated, adults who have had chickenpox would not receive ongoing exposure, and would therefore be at greater risk of developing shingles.
The researchers worked out a mathematical model that predicts that eliminating chickenpox in a country the size of the United States would prevent 186 million cases of the disease and 5,000 deaths over 50 years.
However they said it could also result in 21 million more cases of shingles and 5000 deaths.
Parents are being treated like child abusers by the Maryland public education system, but who’s exploiting whom? If you’re wondering why the schools didn’t simply threaten to kick the kids out of school–as opposed to jailing and fining their parents–the answer is all in the money. The schools are funded based on average-daily-attendance. Every body in a classroom is cash in their pockets.
But never question the motives of the Nanny State, right? It’s for the children.