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Should Parents Be Jailed If They Don't Vaccinate Their Children?

By March 12, 2008 - 9:13am
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Here's an interesting story out of Europe ... Parents may be jailed over vaccinations. Do you agree with this? Should the government be able to control the health of its citizens? Should parents be able to control the health of their children?

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However, it was routine practice for local schools to insert a notice in registration packets that children would not be permitted to school without updated vaccinations. Those records were required at enrollment. There may have been a "grace period" at certain grade levels, but the child would be removed from school without updated vaccinations.

Law and interpretation of law are often at odds and parents are not always made aware of their legal choices.

August 19, 2008 - 5:07pm

I do find it disturbing, as Echo mentioned, that there is not more research conducted, in order for parents to know who these children are that are "susceptible" to vaccinations. It would provide the public great comfort, and save much heartache, if we knew that some ingredients in the vaccines were causing developmental delays, and not the vaccines themselves. Wouldn't that be an "easy fix" to change the formula of vaccines so they are even safer?!

My previous post mentioned the benefits of vaccines (that they are for the community and not necessarily for the individual), and want to re-iterate that I was speaking primarily from my experience in working at a University, with 18-22 year olds. I have vaccinated my 17 month old toddler according to the CDC Schedule, but not without hesitation.

I agree with Echo: until more research can be done on the link or association between vaccinations (or rather, an ingredient/additive in the vaccination concoction) and autism or other negative health consequences...there needs to be more attention placed on CHANGING THE SCHEDULE of vaccines. We just need more information, so we can make informed decisions. For example: what are the chances/odds of our child becoming sick with measles, mumps or rubella if we postpone the MMR shot until they are 6 years old? What are the chances/odds of them developing autism or other developmental delay if they receive the MMR shot before they reach their 1st birthday? Give us the information, and we (the parents) can take it from there (with our pediatricians' recommendations as well).

There are many "pros" to providing children with protection via immunization at an early age. Why don't we know the "cons" and the potential hazards, too? It seems so simple to me: change the formula or change the schedule (timeline) of vaccinations. Everyone wins. Give us more information as to the diseases that are being vaccinated against vs. autism rates. Are there any characteristics or similarities in children developing autism immediately after receiving a bout of vaccines?

April 15, 2008 - 1:04pm

Thank you for the suggestion. I understand that some parents with concerns, specifically in Europe, have had their children given a measles shot at one visit, a mumps shot at another and the rubella at yet another. It was the component shots I was interested in, but two different pediatricians told me they were unavailable in the states. Perhaps I should research that further, although I am probably most comfortable delaying all shots for now.

April 15, 2008 - 9:31am

Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Was researching vaccinations and according to the book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Dr. Kenneth Bock, you should be able to have live virus vaccines (the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR) spread out into consecutive, monthly office visits. It might be a topic worth revisiting with your doctor or exploring with another doctor.

April 15, 2008 - 9:11am

I have a slightly unusual situation. My second son abruptly stopped babbling the day after he received a round of infant vaccinations. He didn't speak at all until he was almost 3, and when he did, he used no consonants. I suppose people could argue coincidence, but I don't buy it. He received an overload to his system that affected his development.

I have not allowed him any shots since, although I do not intend for him to remain unvaccinated forever. But autism and PDD are virtually unheard of developing in children over 6 who haven't displayed symptoms, so I think it is in my son's best interest to wait. I did ask my pediatrician if we could split up the MMR and give the components separately, but she told me the separate shots were unavailable. So the parent who wants to vaccinate, but in a potentially safer way, is refused.

Like a pp mentioned, there are very few shots I refuse, and many others I delay. Given the history of my children (speech and gross motor delays), I feel most comfortable with that approach. After witnessing what my son went through, it is entirely possible that he would be a child succeptible to autism or PDD that was vaccine-induced (even dr.s admit that vaccines may trigger problems in succeptible children, but no one can identify those who are succeptible until after the shots are administered and it is usually too late). Is a permanently disabled child an asset to society?

April 15, 2008 - 8:48am

At most Universities, and I assume other educational public institutions, it is mandatory for students to receive certain vaccines. There are waivers for religious or medical reasons that will allow the student to be on that campus without receiving the required immunizations.

However, if there is an outbreak, such as mumps in Iowa last year, the students who do not have their immunizations up-to-date or who have these waivers are not allowed on campus until the infectious time-period has passed, which can be several or more weeks. This type of consequence makes sense to me; it's not punitive (though it may feel as such, to those students who are not allowed on campus during an exam week), but they (or their parents) have made a personal choice about not receiving immunizations, while making a conscious choice to attend a public school, knowing the requirements beforehand.

I do believe that there should be consequences to individuals not following "standards of health" when living in a community. The consequences need to make sense, and be related to the intended behavior (here, getting a vaccine), and not be extraordinarily punitive.

Immunizations are not for individual health, but are for the community and for the health of the population. I compare rules or laws governing health behaviors in a similar way, whether it is for vaccinating your children (when they are attending public institutions) or wearing seat belts. Both are positive health behaviors in most cases. Seat belts can be risky at times, but *most of the time* save lives in car crashes. Immunizations can be risky at times, especially if there is a medical reason to not have a particular vaccine, but *most of the time, for most people* they prevent communicable diseases and infections in a population.

So, to answer the question directly: jail time and fines seem like unusual punishments. I don't think "scaring" people with harsh consequences will necessarily "scare" them into making a particular health decision, especially a decision as controversial as whether or not to vaccinate a child.

March 13, 2008 - 12:53pm

Recently, Texas lawmakers blocked Governor Perry's executive order to have 6th Grade girls inoculated against HPV.


Pandemic preparedness is one good reason for a government to intervene or impose vaccination against deadly contagion. Some states (I don't know if all) still impose vaccination schedules on school-age children for TB, Tetanus, etc. and Texas law prohibits a child from stepping foot on campus if her vaccinations are not current.

But, to fine the parents, and such a ridiculous sum, seems totally unreasonable to me. It makes me wonder where the government's values are, when there are real crimes to be punished for. I think this is taking the concept of "endangering a child" to an extreme.

But, this is just my humble opinion.

March 12, 2008 - 4:56pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to alysiak)

Greetings. I just noticed this post comment, "Texas law prohibits a child from stepping foot on campus if her vaccinations are not current." I just want to set the record straight with the following found in the Texas Administrative Code:

Exclusions from compliance are allowable on an individual basis for medical contraindications, reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, and active duty with the armed forces of the United States. Children and students in these categories must submit evidence for exclusion from compliance as specified in the Health and Safety Code, §161.004(d), Health and Safety Code, §161.0041, Education Code, Chapter 38, Education Code, Chapter 51, and the Human Resources Code, Chapter 42.

Hope that helps set the record straight for those who may fear not being able to send their unvaccinated kids to public school in Texas. There is a choice in Texas. :-)

August 19, 2008 - 4:13pm

There are definitely two sides to this.

On the one hand, people have a right to a safe and healthy environment. Governments regulate this environment. Polio has been eliminated from Belgium but it's a very serious disease. If people are carrying infectious diseases, people have a right to be protected from this.

On this other hand, jailing a parent for non-compliance is beyond ridiculous! We are talking about polio here. This law is out-dated and in my opinion, unnecessary in Belgium. And an $8000 fine is very vindictive. If you want the children living well and healthfully then I suggest you don't eliminate their parents bank accounts! Not to mention losing their parents to the prison system - who is being really punished here?

Given the influx of immigrants from countries with active polio, I would suggest a mandate for the newcomers to the country, rather than the children already there. Of course, we do not know the details of who these children are, where they are from or if there are religious objections.

I wish we'd spend more time locking parents up who beat, abuse, starve and molest their children, instead of parents who refuse to vaccinate. I am a parent who delays certain vaccinations and refuses a (very) limited number. I've done my research and feel very comfortable in my decisions. The thought of me being put to prison for this, or fined an exorbitant amount of money is outlandish. I bet a man who beat his wife to a pulp in Belgium got fined half that. It's wrong and overly punative and the government is sending a very mixed message to the children they claim to want to protect.

March 12, 2008 - 1:30pm
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