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No Flu Shot for Kids? Go Directly to Jail

Published:

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (Nov. 17) - Scores of grumbling parents facing a threat of jail lined up at a courthouse Saturday to either prove that their school-age kids already had their required vaccinations or see that the youngsters submitted to the needle.

The get-tough policy in the Washington suburbs of Prince George's County was one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure its youngsters receive their required immunizations.

Two months into the school year, school officials realized that more than 2,000 students in the county still didn't have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class.

So Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse Saturday and either get their children vaccinated on the spot or risk up to 10 days in jail. They could also provide proof of vaccination or an explanation why their kids didn't have them.

By about 8:30 a.m., the line of parents stretched outside the courthouse in the county on the east side of Washington.

Many of them complained that their children already were properly immunized but the school system had misplaced the records. They said efforts to get the paperwork straightened out had been futile.

"It was very intimidating," Territa Wooden of Largo said of the letter. She said she presented the paperwork at the courthouse Saturday and resolved the matter.

"I could be home asleep. My son had his shots," said Veinell Dickens of Upper Marlboro, who also blamed errant paperwork.

Aloma Martin of Fort Washington brought her children, Delontay and Taron, in 10th and 6th grade, for their hepatitis shots. She said she had been trying to get the vaccinations for more than a month, since the school system sent a warning letter. She had an appointment for Monday, but came to the courthouse to be safe.

"It was very heavy handed," she said of the county's action. "From that letter, it sounded like they were going to start putting us in jail."

School officials deemed the court action a success. School system spokesman John White said the number of children lacking vaccinations dropped from 2,300 at the time the judge sent the letter to about 1,100 Friday.

After Saturday's session, 172 more students were brought into compliance, including 101 students who received vaccinations at the courthouse and 71 whose records were updated.

That still left more than 900 students out of compliance with vaccination requirements, White said.

"Obviously, we still have some more work to do," he said.

Any children who still lack immunizations could be expelled. Their parents could then be brought up on truancy charges, which can result in a 10-day jail sentence for a first offense and 30 days for a second.

Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn Ivey couldn't say Saturday whether he would prosecute parents who fail to comply.

"We have to sit down with school and health services," he said. "We haven't ruled anything out. We need to figure out where we stand."

White said the school system, with about 132,000 students, has been trying for two years to get parents to comply with state law. That law allows children to skip vaccines if they have a medical or religious exemption. It was unclear how many medical or religious exemptions were involved.

Maryland, like all states, requires children to be immunized against several childhood illnesses including polio, mumps and measles. In recent years, it also has required that students up to high school age be vaccinated against hepatitis B and chicken pox.

Nichols said nobody actually came before him Saturday, but he was there if any parent asked to see him.

The judge noted the unhappy looks of some of the kids in line waiting for vaccinations.

"It's cute. It looks like their parents are dragging them to church," Nichols said.

Several organizations opposed to mass vaccinations demonstrated outside the courthouse. While the medical consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective, some people blame immunizations for a rise in autism and other medical problems.

"People should have a choice" in getting their children immunized, said Charles Frohman, representing a physicians' group opposed to vaccines.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
Entry #1,259

Comments

1.
JAP69Comment by JAP69 - November 18, 2007, 8:30 am
You are going to do what the Gov,t tells ya and like it.
The rise of communism has been creeping into the U.S.
2.
LOTTOMIKEComment by LOTTOMIKE - November 18, 2007, 8:52 am
could martial law be next?

this has been happening so slowly with our rights being taken we haven't really even noticed.but we will.....
3.
JAP69Comment by JAP69 - November 18, 2007, 9:13 am
I doubt if martial law will come to be. Possibly only in an extreme case. Such as if terroist get a foothold in the U.S. where roadside bombs , suicide bombings and things of that nature that terroist do come to be.
What we have here is passage of laws that are taking away freedom.
I can understand where there is concern such as vaccination and shots are necessary as we live in densly populated areas around the country. The spread of disease can be rampant to a society if not kept in check.
4.
TenajComment by Tenaj - November 18, 2007, 2:16 pm
A lot of parents won't get their children vaccinated because of the widespread of "Autism." Vaccinations have been rumored to be one of the causes of Autism and lead and mercury were used in some of those shots. Some kids came down with all kind of things after being vaccinated before they removed the lead and mercury.

1 out of 150 kids are born on the Autism Spectrum. Those are some pretty strong odds. 1 out of 150 children born will be on the Autism Spectrum. That is messed up. I say it over and over, think about it - 1 out of 150 children are born on the Autism Spectrum. 1 out of 150.

You will be taking a chance having a child that will have special needs. What kind of s**t is that. I won't be surprised if they are a lot of couples who would make very good parents are holding out on having children because of that.

I'm not saying "don't get your kids vaccinated" because diseases like smallpox and whooping cough are on the rise when vaccines were effected in eradicating them. But there is one thing for sure - whatever it is that is causing 1 out of 150 kids to be born with Autism, they need to eradicating that.
5.
justxploringComment by justxploring - November 18, 2007, 2:45 pm
Mike, did you write the subject line? I see nothing in this article at all about getting a lousy flu shot??? Those are usually targeted at seniors anyway, especially those with COPD and other respiratory problems.

I guess I should read this again, because a vaccination is very different. You obviously never lived through the polio epidemic in the 50s. My next door neighbor, who was in his 20s, was paralyzed from the neck down. He lived for many years and used a pencil to operate his electric wheelchair.

Do you know anyone with Yellow Fever? Malaria? Probably not. Good thing too, since I live in FL where we have lost of mosquitos, so I'd be completely paranoid about going outside.

I do think people should have a choice as adults, but this isn't about martial law. Go to poor countries where diseases we rarely see in America are killing thousands every month. This is the same as warning parents that if they don't send their children to school, feed, bathe and clothe them properly, they will lose their parental rights. IMHO parents today are getting lazy. I see it all the time because they don't discipline their kids, they leave teaching sex education, hygiene and family values up to the school or the government. Maybe sometimes the government has to step in to assure the safety of the children.

When I was in elementary school there was a student who wasn't very clean. She had lice and other skin problems. She was teased and ridiculed by the other students and eventually the school called her parents and instructed them on proper hygiene. I don't think they were trying to declare martial law on the family, only prevent the spread of bacteria like impetigo.

By the way, I'm very opposed to any government telling me what to do. But I hope that anyone here who says our rights are being taken away is pro-choice. It can't be both ways. A person who says "the government must stop women from choosing what to do with their own bodies" can't turn around and say the same government can't tell them what to do with their children. You either want government interference in our lives or you don't, but people should make sure they're not confusing politics with common sense.
6.
justxploringComment by justxploring - November 18, 2007, 2:51 pm
Tenaj - good post!

I didn't read that before I posted. I didn't know that these shots might be suspect.   I thought that it might be due to some of the toxins we ingest like the ones in Teflon products or pesticides. If I were a parent, I would definitely check that out first.
7.
four4meComment by four4me - November 19, 2007, 1:15 am
I understand all to well why people should get their shots especially kids. Think about the ramifications of a child who has came to school with a crippling communicable disease he/she goes on a field trip to a museum other kids catch this disease they take it to their school whoops an epidemic. Some kids get treatment other kids aren't so lucky and they die, all because some idiotic parents didn't want to comply with school regulations which are practiced in almost every city in the US.

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