Parents home school children to avoid vaccinations - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 10/13/08

Parents home school children to avoid vaccinations

By Monica Hernandez

Some parents are taking unconventional measures to avoid the state's vaccine requirements for entering schools. But state health officials say that puts everyone at risk.

Dr. Debrah Barnes said the main reason she and her husband chose to home school their children is that they don't agree with the state's vaccination requirements for entering schools.

"I'd rather get the disease than get the adverse effects for a lifetime from the vaccines," said Barnes.  

Barnes is a chiropractor who runs a local group with about 50 active members called the Mississippi Vaccine Information Center. Barnes believes vaccines can put children at risk of dangerous side effects like autism, learning disorders, or death. But according to state health officials, vaccines don't cause autism and have very low rates of adverse side effects.

"Shame on the people that put out that kind of information. I can't use the word for what it really is, but it's what's left in the pasture after the bull leaves," said Dr. Ed Thompson, Mississippi's state health officer.

He said unvaccinated children put others at risk because vaccines don't always work.

"We've had several substantial outbreaks of measles, virtually all of which were tracked back to un-immunized children whose parents chose not to immunize their child," said Thompson.

 Mississippi allows unvaccinated children to attend school with medical exemptions. But unlike some other states, Mississippi doesn't allow philosophical or religious exemptions.

"I think the state should put parenting in the hands of the parents, not state officials," said Barnes.

"The issue here is the responsibility of the state to ensure that all children are protected," said Thompson.

Barnes said she would move if the state required homeschooled children to get immunized. Thompson said the state has no such intentions.

Barnes said officials push parents to vaccinate their children because of lobbying from pharmacuetical companies. Thompson argues vaccines are not big money makers for those companies.

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