I used to think that only people with ultra-conservative religious beliefs or anti-establishment opinions home-schooled their kids. But after reading an article in USA Today,I learned differently. Debra and Curtis Barnes are part of a growing number of Americans who home-school their three children solely to avoid having them vaccinated.
Debra Curtis is hardly a fringe member of society. She has a busy chiropractic practice in Mississippi and is president of the Mississippi Vaccination Information Center, a group of 159 concerned parents who believe that mandatory vaccinations for school-aged children are a dangerous over-reach by state governments.
This group is not alone in their concerns. Surprisingly perhaps, they have the support of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), whose thousands of members are not anti-vaccine, but believe that the government and individual school districts do not have the right to mandate vaccines without parental informed consent. The AAPS factsheet says that “42 states have mandatory vaccine policies, and many children are required 22 shots by first grade."2
New Jersey has the highest requirement of mandatory childhood vaccines in the US-- 35 doses of 13 different vaccines,3 most of them administered to children between the ages of 1 and 7. Parents must comply with the vaccine schedule if their children will be attending school or daycare unless they have received a religious or medical exemption.
Perhaps not surprisingly, New Jersey also has the highest rate of autism among 14 states that were analyzed in 2007 by the CDC4 -- 10.6 cases of autism per 1,000 children (or 1 in 94), compared to an average of 6.6 per 1,000 (1 in 152) children overall.5
Like the AAPS and the parents of many home-schooled children, citizen groups all over the country are speaking out against the ever increasing number of government-mandated vaccines and mobilizing to do something about it.
The New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice (NJCVC), an expanding group of parents, physicians, holistic organizations, autism support groups, and other concerned citizens is currently lobbying for a Conscientious Belief Exemption that will allow parents to refuse mandatory immunizations for their children on the basis of sincerely held moral objections.
Among its top 10 reasons for a conscientious exemption bill, the NJCVC cites the manner in which mandatory vaccines are decided and scheduled. A seven-member advisory panel appointed by the governor determines the state's mandatory vaccine program which is then approved by the health commissioner and governor. The state legislature is bypassed in the process and the concerns of the public are typically ignored6 -- parents and children, the individuals most affected by the vaccine decision-makers have no representation in the matter.
Enter Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a physician and vocal advocate against mandatory vaccines. Dr. Tenpenny, with a thriving integrative medical practice in Cleveland, Ohio says she has seen far too many devastated parents whose children developed serious medical problems after they were vaccinated. Many of them had to make on the spot decisions in the doctor's office about whether to proceed with a vaccination. Armed with the proper information, they would have said no.7
To help parents faced with increased pressure to vaccinate their children before they can enter school or daycare, Dr. Tenpenny has recently written a book called Saying NO To Vaccines. The book advises them on how they can legally avoid mandatory vaccinations for their children -- and provides them with powerful arguments based on the scientific literature to refute doctors and administrators who insist that vaccines don't harm the immune system or cause chronic disease.8
According to Dr. Tenpenny, the anti-vaccine movement is gaining momentum at the grassroots level because of the strong scientific evidence that proves they do more harm than good. And perhaps for the rest of us, it's not a moment too soon.
A new group called People for Immunization (PFI) headed by Dr. Paul Offit (co-inventor and co-patent holder of the rotavirus vaccine) and backed by the CDC, plans to crisscross the US speaking to the public, health professionals, and organizations to promote the science-based value of immunizations.
One of their stated goals is to advocate strongly to improve the appalling low adult vaccination rates in the United States.9 They also tell us to watch for plans for more mandatory vaccines for adults.9
Unless I'm missing something, PFI seems to conveniently overlook the fact that the vast majority of adults are not falling ill from communicable diseases. What do we need to be vaccinated against?
If PFI's goals alarm you as much as they do me, you can log on to Dr. Tenpenny's website and join the Coalition Against Mandatory Vaccines. And on the website of the American Association of Health Freedom you can find out more about the Coalition and how to offer your support. As Dr. Tenpenny advises, we must stand up and be heard if we want to preserve our right to refuse mandatory vaccines.