I have been an outspoken advocate of vaccine choice for several years. As a result, some have labeled me as anti-vaccine and this is not the case. I simply believe that parents should have the right to make the best healthcare choices for their individual kids. Is that such a crazy thought? According to the Oregon state legislature it just might be and they are seeking to eliminate all parental choice in regard to childhood vaccines.
Don't live in Oregon? Don't go away. Other states are considering getting rid of their religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines as well. This is an issue that affects us all - even if you choose to vaccinate your kids on the CDC's recommended schedule.
Parents have the right to decide
The doctors and scientists who work for the CDC have a tough job - they have to write vaccine recommendations for an entire population regardless of gender, race or family background. As any plus size girl who has tried on a "one size fits all" dress can tell you - one size never fits all.
Currently, parents are allowed to balance the CDC's recommendations against their own family medical history and risk factors to determine if that schedule is right for them. And if it isn't they can modify it. If they have a family history of bad reactions to vaccines, they can be selective in which ones they let their kids get. If nobody in their family is positive for Hepatitis B, they choose to wait until closer to the time the child will need the immunity from the vaccine to give it - ensuring that when they become sexually active, they will still have protection.
Empowering parents to make their own vaccine choices is working! Most families still vaccinate their children (even if it's at a different time than recommended by the CDC) and measles is far from running rampant (get facts about measles here). Even though a few hundred people catch measles every year, nobody in the United States has died from measles in more than a decade. Sounds like whatever we are doing is working. Why do we need to strip parents of their rights to change a plan that isn't failing?
Religious freedom is essential
Did you know that the vaccines for chickenpox, rubella, hepatitis A and shingles are made in fetal embryo cells of electivly aborted babies?(source) For some of you that's not a big deal. But for others, to use medical technology developed using aborted babies is unconscionable. The people who oppose these vaccines on religous grounds have a constitutional right to opt out - these people deserve the constitutional right to opt out - even if you think they are silly for believing what they do.
Are you a vegan? You may not realize that between incubating vaccine strains in eggs and kidney cells from monkeys being present in some vaccines that most vaccines aren't vegan. Do you want to option to opt your kids out of non-vegan vaccines whether for religious or philosophical reasons? You need to oppose this bill.
What's worse is that this bill will affect even religious private schools - including those schools whose theology would prevent them from following the CDC vaccine schedule. Say you are a conservative, pro-life Christian and want to opt out of the Hep A, Hep B, Chickenpox, MMR and HPV vaccines for religious reasons. Your child attends a private, conservative Christian school who backs up your theological position. If SB442 passes, your child will no longer be permitted to attend that school - even though the school shares your religious beliefs and practices.
Parents can respond sooner
Back to parental rights: If this bill succeeds and you'll only be permitted to opt out of vaccines for pre-approved (by the state) medical reasons. Regardless of how much research you do, your kid will become a state guinea pig since you will no longer have any say about opting out. Here's how:
Say you do your homework and get yourself and your children tested for the MTHFR genetic mutation. It comes back positive. While much more research needs to be done, initial studies seem to indicate that those with MTHFR defects may be at a higher risk for an adverse reaction to vaccines (see one study on MTHFR and vaccination in the Journal of Infectious Diseases here). As such, you want to work with your doctor to selectively vaccinate your children to minimize their risk of an adverse reaction. That means you will delay some vaccines and may even skip some vaccines for diseases they are unlikely to encounter.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Not according to the state of Oregon! If your child's condition is not on the list of pre-approved medical reasons to opt out of vaccines, your child must be vaccinated or they may not attend school. MTHFR mutations are unlikely to be listed as a valid reason to opt out until a certain number of children with MTHFR mutations have bad reactions and then the state connects the two.
If they need 500 positive cases to prove a connection and your child is the 450th to be vaccinated? You will need to march them straight to your pediatrician's office to have them vaccinated for whatever vaccines the CDC puts on the schedule - even if they are clearly not the right fit for your family (see my first point above about one size fits all vaccines).
Leaving these decisions in the hands of parents and their doctors - instead of the specially selected, state-approved doctors- will allow families to respond much more rapidly to emerging bodies of evidence when a medical exemption might be warranted - even if their condition is not yet listed on the state-approved list of conditions which warrant exemptions.
This is the first step on a terribly slippery slope
If the state thinks it is prudent to solve social problems by mandating forced medical procedures and medications it's only a matter of time before the teen pregnancy rate is solved by mandating all menstruating girls to take birth control pills or your child deemed "too active" by their school teacher will be required to be medicated for ADD and/or ADHD.
Even if you take no issue with the current CDC recommended schedule, there are hundreds of vaccines currently in the research and development phase(source). What happens with routine vaccines for Ebola are added? Or syphilis? If this bill passes, you are subject to the whims of the CDC and what they want to place on the schedule. If you want to stay in control of what vaccines are given to your kids, you must oppose this bill.
If the state finds that they need to improve their vaccine rates, education and a slick marketing campaign - not a mandate would be the best way to get what they want without stripping citizens of their rights.
Please, for the love of liberty, religious freedom and parental rights, join parents across Oregon to oppose SB 442.
How to Get Involved:
1) Join the coalition:
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2) Like us on Facebook
3) Write to your senators and representatives
Writing to your senators and representatives is actually easier than it sounds. Visit this page to get info and contact information for the senators on the health care committee.
Carissa is an Oregon mom who believes strongly in the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit. She is also a strong advocate of religious freedom for all US Citizens.