Parent and pediatrician react to Mississippi adding a religious exemption for childhood vaccinations

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 8:49 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi children can now go to public school without getting all the shots on the vaccine schedule. But it’s something some parents have been calling for... for years.

”We just want what’s best for our children,” said mom Jeana Stanley. “And being able to have that choice now is such a relief. It’s, you know, a piano off of our backs and the elephant that’s always been in the room.”

Jeana Stanley made the choice to move to Alabama in 2017 and enroll her kids in school there.

The reason? Unlike Mississippi, they had religious exemptions for childhood vaccines. That’s now changed.

“We never thought that this would happen, you know, all of the years of fighting, and all the hard work that many of the members of MPVR have put forth, we just kind of lost hope at some point,” she said.

The forms have been posted to the Department of Health website with instructions for parents. You’ll also have to schedule an appointment with the county health department, watch a vaccine education video and verify that you’ve been informed of the benefits and risks of immunizations. So, will the Stanleys’ return to their home state?

“We are hesitant to move back until it’s a little bit smoother of a process,” added Stanley.

Mississippi already had medical exemptions. And pediatricians like Dr. John Gaudet noted that having more children vaccinated helped protect those who were medically unable to receive them.

“We want to still keep all exemptions, whether they’re medical or religious, to really as minimal as possible, and we want all school him by having the highest immunization rates possible in the school, that is going to be the most protected,” explained Gaudet.

Gaudet says he didn’t have a lot of parents ask about exemptions but thinks that with the new’s more important than ever to have those conversations.

“This is your child’s health,” he noted. “You need to ask those questions. It is okay to ask those questions. And so I would welcome it. And to me, I felt like it would strengthen the physician’s relationship with the family when those discussions would come up.”

The State Board of Health has posted a statement saying they strongly support K-12 vaccinations and note that many diseases are rare today because of vaccine efforts.

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