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Push for More Mandatory Vaccines Leads to Parent Protests

Dec 11, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP Vaccines for children have become controversial in some quarters, as concerns over vaccine side effects, and their possible link to serious disorders.  At the same time, a variety of public health officials in some states and communities have moved to make even more shots, such as the flu vaccine and the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine, mandatory for school children.  This has caused parents concerned about vaccines to become activists, and they are working in a variety of venues in relation to a variety of vaccine issues.

In New Jersey, some parents are hoping to stop the state from becoming the first requiring flu vaccines for preschoolers.  The Public Health Council met yesterday to consider whether New Jersey should require flu vaccines and health department officials are looking to require a pneumococcal vaccine for preschoolers, a booster shot to fight whooping cough for sixth-graders, and meningitis shots for children as young as 11.  According to the deputy health commissioner, the requirements have been approved by the state health department and the governor saying that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the requirements; that other states’ public health officials are watching; and that the vaccines will reduce the diseases, hospitalizations, and the need for parents to stay home with sick children.  Some parents say there is inadequate proof the vaccines are safe and effective.  At a news conference Friday, parents protested the new requirements, urging people to call the governor's office to ask him to stop Monday's vote.  Parents also urged support for a bill that would allow parents to express "philosophical objection" to vaccine mandates, arguing that it’s inappropriate to dictate what is put into children.  Parents also said most of the available influenza vaccine contains mercury, a toxic heavy metal blamed by some as a cause of autism. Others argue there's no research showing it is safe to give children all the vaccines required today—over 30 for New Jersey children.

There are also concerns surrounding the cervical cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil, marketed to protect young girls from a sexually transmitted disease.  Gardasil was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent against four HPV strains—HPV is responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.  Recently, 20 states pushed for federal mandates to make Gardasil mandatory for sixth grade girls.  Some feel mandating Gardasil would protect all women.  Others are opposed to a vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted infection, believing it will lead to promiscuity.  But many others are worried that Gardasil carries significant side effects, and point to the fact that already the FDA has received more 3,000 adverse event reports linked to Gardasil.   The vaccine has been recommended for young girls because they are the least likely to have been previously exposed to strains of HPV, making the vaccine—in theory—more effective.

Meanwhile, parents facing potential jail time lined up at a Maryland courthouse to either prove their children had their required vaccinations or to vaccinate their children in one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure children receive required immunizations.  School officials realized over 2,000 students in the county still didn’t have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class, so parents where ordered to appear at the courthouse.  Many parents complained their children were properly immunized but the school system had misplaced records.  School officials deemed the court action a success; however, the nearly 900 children still lacking immunizations could be expelled and their parents could be brought up on truancy charges, which can result in a 10-day jail sentence for a first offense and 30 days for a second.

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