Tag: vaccine laws

About That Amish Vaccine Exemption Lawsuit in New York

An Amish family has filed a lawsuit against a new vaccine law in New York that eliminated religious vaccine exemptions.

An Amish family has filed a lawsuit against a new vaccine law in New York that eliminated religious vaccine exemptions.

Folks who know that Amish do indeed vaccinate their kids are likely surprised by the lawsuit…

About That Amish Vaccine Exemption Lawsuit in New York

Wait, what?

The Amish vaccinate their kids?

While many Amish don’t vaccinate according to the recommended CDC schedule and get all vaccines, many do get at least some of them.

For example, when a large measles outbreak went through Amish communities in Ohio, many got in line to get vaccinated and stop the outbreak, which ended up getting at least 383 people sick.

That wasn’t the only outbreak among the Amish though.

Remember the last cases of wild polio in the United States?

“The 1979 outbreak occurred in unvaccinated Amish persons living in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, 15 cases of illness caused by wild poliovirus type 1 occurred among U.S. citizens: all 10 paralytic cases occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; three cases of transient paralysis occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; and two nonparalytic cases occurred among unvaccinated members of the Mennonite church who were in frequent contact with Amish persons. Epidemiologic and virologic evidence indicated this outbreak resulted from importation of poliovirus from the Netherlands through Canada (Ontario), where outbreaks had occurred during 1978 in members of religious groups with objections to vaccination.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

It was in 1979.

It was among the Amish.

And many Amish got vaccinated to help eliminate the endemic spread of polio in the United States.

“Immunization campaigns for the Amish are continuing; at least half of the nation’s Amish have now received 1 or more doses of oral poliovirus vaccine.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

So the Amish are clearly not against vaccines.

In 2004, there was an outbreak of pertussis (345 cases) in an Amish community in Kent County, Delaware.

“Of the 96 households interviewed in which a pertussis case was discovered, a total of 43 (45%) reported not vaccinating any children in their household, 40 (42%) households reported vaccinating at least some children, and 13 (14%) did not provide this information. Of the 43 households not vaccinating children, 19 cited “fear of side effects” as the reason, 13 reported that they “didn’t think about it,” and 11 did not provide specific reasons for nonvaccination. Of the 40 respondents who reported that their children had received vaccinations, 29 (64%) reported vaccination at vaccine clinics set up at Amish homes by DPH nurses.”

Pertussis Outbreak in an Amish Community — Kent County, Delaware, September 2004–February 2005

Although many of the kids weren’t vaccinated, religion didn’t seem to be what drove that decision.

“Religious factors and access to care were not among reasons most reported. “

Kettunen et al on Evaluation of low immunization coverage among the Amish population in rural Ohio.

It is usually fear, rather than religion that keeps the Amish from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The findings from the data analysis demonstrated that fear, especially concern over too many recommended immunizations and immunizations overwhelming the child’s system, was the most frequent reported reasons for not having children immunized according to recommendations.”

Kettunen et al on Evaluation of low immunization coverage among the Amish population in rural Ohio.

Unfortunately, this has meant that their children get a high rate of vaccine preventable diseases and that they end up getting hospitalized at higher rates than other children.

“The outcome of pregnancy was determined for the 94 Amish mothers who reported illness or had serologic evidence of maternal rubella (Table 1). CRS occurred in 10 infants, all of whom were born to mothers who had histories of rubella-like illness in the first trimester; seven had possible manifestations of CRS; nine were miscarried/stillborn; and 68 infants appeared normal at birth. During the study period, medical personnel identified one additional infant with CRS from Lancaster County whose mother was a conservative Mennonite. “

Congenital Rubella Syndrome Among the Amish — Pennsylvania, 1991-1992

So not only do the Amish get sick, they get sick for the same reason as typical anti-vaxxers – misinformation and fear of vaccines.

Is that what’s driving this lawsuit in New York?

I don’t know, but if it was just about religion, why does it include typical anti-vaccine talking points about:

  • fetal DNA contaminating our vaccines
  • that unvaccinated children were not responsible for the 2018-19 NYS measles outbreak, going so far as to cite an affidavit from Lawrence Palevsky, who said that “a measles infection in first world countries such as the United States, in 2019, is not deadly.”
  • how the 2018-19 NYS measles outbreak might not have been “true wild-type measles infections.”
  • that the theory of herd immunity is flawed
  • that vaccinated children pose more of a risk to other vaccinated children than the unvaccinated

More than anything though, how can the lawsuit say that New York’s vaccine law unreasonably burdens his “sincere religious beliefs without a compelling state interest,” when we know that the Amish aren’t really against vaccinating and protecting their kids?

You have to wonder what method his lawyer’s used to pick their “examples” of schools with religious exemptions.

About that compelling state interest…

As many parents have come to abuse religious exemptions, using them as personal belief exemptions, we have ended up in a situation in which over 30 schools in New York had religious exemptions rates of at least 50%, including 14 schools in which each and every student had a religious exemption for all vaccines.

All that even though no major religion is against vaccines!

With such a weak case, forum shopping might be his only strategy that could work…
With such a weak case, forum shopping might be his only strategy that could work…

What happens next?

More court stuff, but in the end, it hopefully means that more kids will be vaccinated and protected and we will #StopTheOutbreaks.

More on the Amish and Vaccines

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

Responses to New Vaccine Laws

As anti-vax folks haven’t been very successful in stopping states from passing necessary new vaccine laws, what are they doing now?

“In the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis says they had about 65 students affected by the change in religious exemptions. That number is now down to about 20.”

Deadline for unvaccinated students arrives in New York schools

Fortunately, many are vaccinating and protecting their kids!

Anti-Vax Responses to New Vaccine Laws

Not all of them though…

Some of the more outrageous responses to new vaccine laws have included looking to get fake immunization records and sending 'fake' kids to get tested for immunity.
Some of the more outrageous responses to new vaccine laws have included looking to get fake immunization records and sending ‘fake’ kids to get tested for immunity.

Some are fighting the laws.

In Maine, it appears that one group submitted more than enough signatures to get on a ballot that could overturn their new vaccine law that eliminated non-medical exemptions.

A bold response to a new vaccine law - trying to get it overturned.
Will voters in Maine overturn a new vaccine law?

How did they do it?

People said they were misled into signing a petition to overturn a new vaccine law in Maine.
People said they were misled into signing a petition to overturn a new vaccine law in Maine.

There are many reports that the folks gathering signatures in Maine misled people into signing.

Did signature collectors in Maine lie to get enough support for their anti-vax petition?
Did signature collectors in Maine lie to get enough support for their anti-vax petition?

When you actually look at the petition that the vaccine choice in Maine used, it is easy to see that it is basically a list of anti-vaccine talking points that often scare and mislead parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, including that Maine’s new vaccine law:

Kinder MEs are high in most of Maine.
Kinder MEs are high in most of Maine.
  • Eliminates parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their children. – Vaccine mandates don’t force parents to vaccinate their kids. They still have a choice, even if they don’t like what their choices which no longer include sending their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school.
  • Will harm, not help, public health. – Getting more kids vaccinated and protected does not harm public health!
  • Strips parents of their right to religious freedom. – Which religions are against getting kids vaccinated and protected?
  • Prevents a minority group from receiving an education. – Since parents have a choice on whether or not to vaccinate their kids, it is not the schools or the state that is preventing intentionally unvaccinated kids from receiving an education.
  • Those who need medical exemptions cannot get them. – Every state allows medical exemptions. Under some new vaccine laws, unscrupulous health care providers can no longer make up their own rules for what counts as a medical exemption though.
  • Our childhood vaccination rates are high. – Fortunately, vaccination rates are generally high in most of the country, but that’s not the issue. It is the clusters of unvaccinated kids that are typically the problem. At the Maine Coast Waldorf School, for example, only 38% of kids had the recommended two doses of MMR!
  • Unvaccinated children are not a risk to the immunocompromised. – This is simply not true.
  • Vaccines DO cause injury. – Yes, but the risks from vaccines are small, unlike vaccine-preventable diseases, they very rarely cause severe injuries.

What are they doing in other states?

In New York, they have tried to equate their choice to not vaccinate their kids, which is what’s actually keeping those kids from going to school, with efforts to desegregate schools in the 1960s.

It's sad that these parents think that wanting to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school compares to the efforts to get Ruby Bridges into school and other civil rights issues.
It’s sad that these parents think that wanting to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school compares to the efforts to get Ruby Bridges into school and other civil rights issues.

And while some kids are now being homeschooled, some parents continued to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school, right up until the deadline to get vaccinated and protected, hoping their lawsuits would succeed and keep their kids in school.

They haven’t so far.

And they likely won’t in the future.

Other parents, when they lose one exemption, simply try to substitute it with another.

Are kids with true medical exemptions getting denied as schools see a lot of inappropriate exemptions for things like MTHFR?
Are kids with true medical exemptions getting denied as schools see a lot of inappropriate exemptions for things like MTHFR?

Can’t get a personal belief exemption anymore? Try a religious exemption. And when they take that away, go with a medical exemption.

Of course, that doesn’t work once schools no longer accept inappropriate medical exemptions.

What will work?

Getting their kids vaccinated and protected.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Responses to New Vaccine Laws

Why Are States Eliminating Religious Exemptions for Immunizations?

While all states continue to have medical exemptions to getting vaccinated, more and more are eliminating their religious exemptions.

New York is one of the states that is eliminating their religious exemptions for vaccines.
New York is one of the states that is eliminating their religious exemptions for vaccines.

Do you find that surprising?

Why Are States Eliminating Religious Exemptions for Immunizations?

If you do, it might change your mind once you realize that no major religion is actually against immunizations.

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center FAQ on the Use of Vaccines

In fact, nearly all religions actively support getting kids vaccinated and protected. That makes sense, as vaccines are safe, with few risks, and unvaccinated kids are at increased risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease and put other kids at risk too.

So why do folks get religious exemptions?

Connecticut is another state that is considering eliminating religious exemptions for vaccines.
Connecticut is another state that is considering eliminating religious exemptions for vaccines.

More and more, we are seeing parents abuse religious exemptions, using them as a personal belief exemption because they just don’t want to vaccinate their kids.

More on Religious Exemptions for Immunizations