Vt. Debates Letting Parents Say No to Vaccines
For Jennifer Stella, it’s a question of informed consent. Her son had a seizure after getting childhood vaccinations and her daughter suffered a “head-to-toe” eczema outbreak; she says parents should research the risks and benefits of immunizations and decide which ones are appropriate.
For Jill Olson, a mother of two, it’s a matter of trusting the experts. “There’s not really any way that as an individual I can do more scientific study and research than the American Academy of Pediatrics or the Centers for Disease Control.”
For Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, the state motto sums it up: “freedom and unity” — individual choice versus the public health benefit of having a high percentage of kids vaccinated.
“It’s a balance between individual rights and our obligations to each other in society,” the Democratic speaker said.
For much of the legislative session, Vermont has been embroiled in a debate over whether to end the “philosophical exemption” — essentially a right of refusal for parents who want to enroll their children in school or child care without immunizations. The list of shots called for by the state Health Department and the CDC is roughly 20 by the time a child enters kindergarten.
The CDC and state health officials say Vermont is among the states with the highest exemption rates for childhood vaccinations. Some say it’s no coincidence that Vermont recently has seen an outbreak of one of the diseases the vaccines target: pertussis, or whooping cough.