Tag: free-riders

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Believe it or not, parents have been jailed for not vaccinating their kids.

In a recent Michigan case, a mother was jailed for refusing a court order to vaccinate her son. The court had agreed with the boy’s father that the child should be vaccinated and protected.

So this case was not just about vaccines, but about divorced parents who disagreed about how to care for their child…

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Although it isn’t common, historically, there have been other stories of parents going to jail for not vaccinating their kids.

Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.
Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.

Recently, in 2007, parents were warned that they might be sent to jail for not vaccinating their kids. The problem wasn’t just vaccines though, as these parents could have gotten exemptions. And they had several months to do so before the Judge gave his warning…

No one went to jail in Maryland in 2007.

Have you ever heard of John (Jack) Marsh?

Going to jail for not vaccinating his kids became routine for John Marsh.

In 1946, he was put in jail and his daughter, Betty Jane, was taken by child welfare services so that she could get a smallpox vaccine. His son Marlin was also to be taken, but couldn’t be found.

What happened next? We don’t know. That was the last report about John Marsh and his family.

We do know a lot about what happened before this though…

John Marsh was first jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

John Marsh’s story started nearly 12 years earlier!

In 1934, he spent 7 months in jail because he wouldn’t vaccinate his children Daniel and Lorna. As in 1946, those children were taken and vaccinated and Marsh was released.

John Marsh was again jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

He was also put in prison in 1937 over getting his son Eugene vaccinated.

John Marsh was jailed over and over from 1937 to 1940 because he wouldn't vaccinate his kids.

Why was he against vaccinating his kids?

John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.
John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.

He believes that a smallpox vaccine caused two of his nieces to go blind. One of them became blind about two weeks after getting her smallpox vaccine. Two weeks later, her sister also became blind. And then another.

What could have affected these girls in 1925 besides Mildred’s smallpox vaccine? Trachoma was once a common cause of blindness in the United States and it was quite contagious.

Even though two weren’t even vaccinated, the family still thinks that they all suffered from some kind of vaccine injury.

“The infrequency of eye involvement following vaccination is very striking when we consider the number of vac­cinations, the doubtful handling that many receive, and the ease with which infection may be transferred.”

Arthur J. Bedell, M.D., F.A.C.S. on Multiple Vaccination of the Eyelids

Interestingly, ocular vaccinia is a known, rare complication of getting a smallpox vaccine. It could occur if you touched the site of vaccination and then touched your eye, and so could also occur if you were in close contact with someone who was recently vaccinated, as the Marsh sisters.

Unlike these girls though, the infection typically only involves one eye, would cause lesions suspicious for vaccinia in or near the eye, which were never mentioned, and often leaves obvious lid deformities.

And doctors did not believe that those girls had a reaction to the vaccine.

John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated...
John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated…

Are there any other cases of parents going to jail instead of vaccinating their kids?

In 1899, apparently there wasn't a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
In 1899, apparently there wasn’t a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
In 1942, Bowser's two children were admitted to a county Children's home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
In 1942, Bowser’s two children were admitted to a county Children’s home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn't win their court case.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn’t win their court case.

Could any of this happen now?

We still have truancy laws and laws about kids getting vaccinated…

Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids...
Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids…

But no one wants parents to go to jail over vaccination decisions.

And no one wants kids to be forced to get vaccines.

Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.
Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.

We also don’t want kids to get sick and disease to spread because of ignorance and unnecessary fear of vaccines.

Who is scaring these parents in the first place?
What is scaring these parents in the first place?

Unfortunately, anti-vax folks create a viscous cycle.

As they scare more and more parents, they create pockets of susceptible children, and larger and larger outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, which eventually require stricter vaccine requirements and mandates to control.

More on Jail and Vaccines

Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

With record numbers of measles cases this year, lots of folks are interested in vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.
You are at increased to get sick and can spread diseases if you are unvaccinated.

Even though our own kids are vaccinated and protected, many of us are concerned about vaccination and exemption rates because we understand the risks.

We know that some kids are too young to be vaccinated and some kids can’t be vaccinated, as they have true medical exemptions.

Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

So how are our vaccination and exemption rates doing these days?

Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.
Some states have rates of vaccine exemptions that are much higher than others, with rates from ranging from a low of 0.1% in Mississippi to a high of 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon.

According to the latest reports from the CDC:

  • the percentage of kindergartners with a vaccine exemption continues to slowly rise and is now up to 2.5%, up from 2.3% during the 2017-18 school year
  • an additional 2.8% of kindergartners were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption
  • the percentage of kindergartners up to date for MMR ranged from 87.4% in Colorado to 99.2% in Mississippi
  • coverage by age 24 months was ≥90% for ≥3 doses of polio- virus vaccine (92.7%), ≥1 dose of MMR (90.4%), ≥3 doses of HepB (91.0%), and ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine (90.0%), and are all up over previous years by 1 to 3%
  • only 56% of toddlers receive two or more doses of the flu vaccine by age two years
  • only 1.3% of children born in 2015 and 2016 had received no vaccinations by the second birthday, which is up from 1.1%
  • up to 7.4% of uninsured children received no vaccines, even though they qualify for free vaccines under the Vaccines for Children program

This doesn’t tell the whole story though.

“During the 2018–19 school year, national coverage with MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines remained near 95%. However, coverage and exemption rates varied by state. Recent measles outbreaks in states with high overall MMR coverage, such as New York, highlight the need for assessing vaccination coverage at the local level. ”

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2018–19 School Year

Although vaccination rates are generally high and exemption rates low at the state and national level, it is the pockets of undervaccinated kids that are the problem.

In Texas, for example, although state level exemptions are fairly low (2.4%) and immunization rates high, in some communities and school districts, more than 50% of kids are unvaccinated!

“The importance of achieving and sustaining high vaccination coverage across all communities is illustrated by the 22 measles outbreaks occurring in the United States in 2019, with 1,249 measles cases identified during January 1–October 1, 2019. Most cases have been among persons who were not vaccinated against measles. Pockets of low vaccination coverage, because of lack of access to vaccination services or to hesitancy resulting from the spread of inaccurate information about vaccines, increase the likelihood of a measles outbreak. “

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 68, Issue Number 41 Vaccination Coverage by Age 24 Months Among Children Born in 2015 and 2016 — National Immunization Survey-Child, United States, 2016–2018

Unfortunately, we don’t see that kind of local data in the latest reports on vaccination coverage and exemption rates.

And while we should certainly work to get everyone vaccinated who doesn’t have an exemption, lots of work needs to be done educate parents that they should vaccinate and protect their kids instead of seeking non-medical exemptions.

More on Vaccination Coverage and Exemption Rates

What Makes Your Healthy Unvaccinated Child a Threat?

Folks who intentionally skip or delay their child’s vaccines and try to get away with hiding in the herd always seem to wonder why we consider their kids to be a threat to everyone else.

What happens when she grows up and learns who really kept her out of school?
What happens when she grows up and learns who really kept her out of school?

How can a healthy child be a threat?

What Makes Your Healthy Unvaccinated Child a Threat?

Of course, kids that are truly healthy aren’t a threat, as long as they stay healthy.

What would turn them into a threat to others?

A healthy child who got measles, chicken pox, or other vaccine-preventable disease and exposed others, putting them at risk, including those who are

  • too young to be vaccinated
  • too young to be fully vaccinated
  • unable to be vaccinated because they have a true medical exemption
  • susceptible because their vaccine didn’t work

And which kids, even if they are healthy, are most at risk to get measles, chickenpox, or other vaccine preventable diseases?

That’s right.

Kids who are unvaccinated and unprotected!

If you intentionally choose to not vaccinate your kids, that shouldn’t mean that others have to lose their choice to send their own kids to school without worrying that they will be exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease.

More On Unvaccinated Kids

Which Part of the Herd Gets Protected by Community Immunity?

You are a part of the herd.

“I don’t care that you call people a herd. And I don’t care that some people consider themselves to be part of a herd. I am not in a herd. I am not a farm animal.”

Del Bigtree

Of course, we are talking about herd immunity.

Which Part of the Herd Gets Protected by Community Immunity?

What if you aren’t vaccinated and protected?

Del Bigtree is a "free thinking human being," who whether he appreciates it or not, benefits from herd immunity protections.
Del Bigtree is a “free thinking human being,” who whether he appreciates it or not, benefits from herd immunity protections.

Then you are protected by those who are!

“A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.”

CDC Vaccine Glossary of Terms

That’s what herd immunity is all about.

In a community, “the herd” includes those with immunity and those trying/needing to “hide in the herd:”

  • those with natural immunity
  • folks who are vaccinated and protected
  • some people who are too young to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated
  • the people who’s vaccines didn’t work
  • anyone who can’t be vaccinated, because they have a medical contraindication

And it also includes those who are intentionally unvaccinated. The free-riders. Those who could be vaccinated, but simply choose not to, often because they have been scared by things they have heard or read about vaccines.

Baby deer need protection from the adults in the herd, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a part of the herd too.
Baby deer need protection from the adults in the herd, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a part of the herd too.

This all makes even more sense when you think about it as community immunity, the term that is more commonly used today.

Don’t want to think that you are in the herd?

That’s OK.

The herd still protects you. At least it does if enough folks in the herd are vaccinated and protected.

More on Community Immunity