I stopped vaccinating my son because I believe he had a severe rash due to a vaccine. I have done some further research and I am strongly opposed to any more vaccinations, even for any child I may have in the future. I am concerned for the possibility of child protective services coming to my door and trying to take my son. Do they have the power to take my children and force vaccination? Furthermore, the last pediatrician I went to refused to treat my son because I did not want to continue vaccinating. Can a practitioner force vaccination on my family or report me to child protective services for declining vaccines?
You were wise to do your own research after you suspected your son had a reaction to a vaccine. I have always encouraged women to listen to their mother's instinct and get more information when they sense their children are in danger but are being told to ignore their instincts and obey the doctor's orders. That mother's instinct, the biological imperative which helps us protect the health and well being of our young, can be as helpful in making a vaccination decision as reading a book or listening to an "expert."
In the US, vaccine laws are state laws. What is not defined in the US Constitution as a federal activity defaults to the states and public health laws fall into the state activity category. In the US, all 50 states have mandatory vaccination laws which are enforced to a greater or lesser degree depending upon how the state law is worded, what kinds of exemptions are allowed, and how the state's health, education and social services agencies implement the law.
All states offer a medical exemption to one or more state required vaccines. A medical exemption must be written by an M.D. (medical doctors) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy), the two types of doctors licensed by states to perform surgery and prescribe drugs. These medical exemptions are often reviewed by state health officials, who determine whether or not they conform to narrow contraindications considered by the Centers for Diease Control (CDC) as valid reasons to not vaccinate.
In recent years, more doctors in private practice are declining to write a medical exemption for a child even when they believe the child is at high risk for suffering vaccine-induced brain and immune system dysfunction. Doctors are afraid they will be second-guessed by state health or education officials and harrassed for writing medical exemptions that allow a child to attend public school without receiving all CDC recommended vaccines.
All states but two (West Virginia and Mississippi) allow religious exemption to vaccination for children whose parents have sincerely, deeply held religious beliefs opposing vaccination. In order to file a religious exemption, you do not have to belong to a church with formal tenets opposing vaccination. Because the US Constitution protects the right to worship freely while ensuring a separation of Church and State, you only need to hold personal religious beliefs rather than adhere to the tenet of a specific religion or church.
However, in order to legitimately take a religious exemption to vaccination, you should truly hold personal religious beliefs opposing vaccination of your child as you could be asked by the state to defend the exemption in court if the exemption is challenged by state officials. Some parents have discussed their vaccination decision with their pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual advisor and obtained a letter from them attesting to their sincerely held religious beliefs in the matter of vaccination. This may be advisable as there are increasing reports of certain states, such as New York, pulling religious exemptions on file or denying religious exemptions after state officials grill parents for hours on the sincerity of their religious beliefs. Some of these cases are now making their way through the judicial system.
In about one-third of the states, you may object to vaccination of your child for philosophical, personal or conscientious beliefs. These states come the closest to allowing informed consent to vaccination, informed consent being an ethic which recognizes personal autonomy and the right to self determination when making a medical decision involving a risk of injury or death. (Vaccination is a medical intervention which carries a risk of injury or death).
States offering religious and/or philosophical belief exemptions may require parents to sign an affidavit and agree to take unvaccinated children out of school during outbreaks of infectious diseases. Most exemptions to vaccination govern the right of children to attend state funded daycare, pre-school, elementary, secondary and college education programs. However, some state vaccination laws simply require certain vaccines by a certain age and do not link vaccination requirements to the state education system.
Unfortunately, doctors in positions of authority in a state's health, education or social service system can report parents for failing to vaccinate their children according to state laws and charge parents with child medical neglect. If they persuade a judge to order it, a child can be forced to be vaccinated according to state laws. This does not happen frequently, but it does happen, especially during divorce cases involving child custody battles between parents. It is also more likely to happen when parents take a child to a hospital or clinic for an illness and, when asked if the child is up-to-date on vaccinations, the parents say "no" and then refuse to have the child immediately vaccinated. Some hospitals and clinics have a policy that requires attending personnel to make a report to the state social service agency when parents refuse to vaccinate a child.
During the past two decades as more parents have become more aware of vaccine risks and the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have doubled the number of recommended vaccines for children, pediatricians have become defensive when parents ask questions about vaccination. Instead of discussing vaccine risks with parents, pediatricians are increasingly taking a dictatorial approach and refusing to treat families who want to use some, but not all, vaccines or do not want to vaccinate a child at all. Usually pediatricians will simply throw the family out of the practice but, on occasion, they will report parents who do not vaccinate their children to state child welfare authorities.
If you choose to selectively vaccinate your children or use no vaccines at all, you should be aware of the laws in your particular state and the vaccine exemptions allowed. You should also be prepared to hire a lawyer if you are charged with child medical neglect for failing to vaccinate your child with all state required vaccines.
Finally, if you truly believe your child is at high risk for suffering vaccine-induced injury or death, you have the moral right as that child's mother to fight to protect your child from harm. Become well educated about vaccines and infectious diseases and you will be better equipped to do that. (You can do further research on the website of the National Vaccine Information Center at www.nvic.org) If more mothers and fathers stand up and demand the right to informed consent to vaccination for their children in every state, pediatricians and government officials will have no choice but to become partners with parents in preventing vaccine reactions.