by: David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Thousands of students have been banned from Maryland public schools, after their parents failed to prove compliance with government-mandated vaccine schedules.
Students in kindergarten, first grade, second grade and seventh through ninth grades must prove that they have received a series of vaccines that are newly required. Elementary school students must prove that they have received two doses of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, while older students must prove that they have received the varicella vaccine as well as the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and meningococcal vaccines.
Under Maryland law, parents must provide written proof of required immunizations within 20 days of the start of the school year. When this grace period expired, students were pulled from class and their parents were called. The students will not be permitted to return until they have received the shots.
The quest for ‘compliance’
The numbers of “non-compliant” children varied widely by region of the state. In Prince George’s County, more than 6,400 children were non-compliant at the end of the grace period. In Baltimore city, approximately 5,000 students were found to be non-compliant as of September 12; within two days, however, the number had dropped to about 3,800. That’s because many of the “non-compliant” students had actually been vaccinated, but their parents had not submitted the required paperwork to the schools.
“In a lot of these situations the students have the immunizations; we just haven’t received the records from the parents,” said Filipa Gomes, health services director for Carroll County Public Schools. “Once they got the call from the school principal, ‘We need your records,’ all of a sudden a lot of them came in.”
Schools across the state have set up clinics to provide free vaccinations.
Baltimore school officials said that only about 100 elementary school students were found to be non-compliant, and most of those were children just starting school. The vast majority of non-compliant students were seventh and ninth graders who had not received the Tdap or meningococcal shots.
According to the CDC, meningococcal disease can cause disability and death, but “is not very common in the United States.”
Many of the students to be banned from class had already been through at least one exercise of state power. According to Kerrie Wagaman, coordinator of health services for the Howard County school system, it is standard policy for non-compliant children to be removed from class on the first day of school and made to wait in a health room, cafeteria or library until their parents can be contacted.
“I find that the more firm you are from the first day of school with implementing the policy, compliance with it becomes more consistent across all levels,” Wagaman said.
Parents insist on freedom of choice
Maryland allows exemptions to vaccine requirements only with documentation of a medical or religious objection. Groups such as Maryland Coalition for Vaccine Choice claim that such policies violate parents’ rights to medical choice.
Every state requires at least some vaccines for public school attendance. Three states (California, West Virginia and Mississippi) allow only medical exemptions, and 18 allow exemptions for personal reasons. The rest, including Maryland, allow only religious or medical exemptions.
Parents who choose not to follow the federal vaccine recommendations cite many reasons for their “non-compliance,” ranging from concerns about particular vaccine side effects, to skepticism about the need for particular shots. Public health officials find such non-compliance very troubling, and are constantly looking for ways to prevent it.
A recent study in the journal Vaccine explored the possibility that exposing people to vaccine side effect reports would reassure them that vaccines are actually safe and the federal government is a trustworthy source of health information.
Instead, people who read the reports became less likely to vaccinate, less trusting of vaccine safety and more skeptical about federal vaccine recommendations.