TRAVERSE CITY â A bill introduced in the state House would undo recent changes to the process parents must go through if they don’t want to vaccinate their children.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, would allow parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children to skip meeting with someone from the health department. Those parents now must schedule a meeting and talk about the implications of not vaccinating their children to get a waiver.
Grand Traverse County ranks among the least-vaccinated counties in the state. A recent outbreak of chicken pox at Montessori at Glenn Loomis prompted the county health department to order students who weren’t vaccinated to stay home throughout the virus’ incubation period, a move that may be limited under the new bill.
“I think it’s insulting to parents that they are being treated as if they haven’t done their study, they haven’t done enough,” Hooker said.
Michael Collins, a doctor and the medical director for the health departments in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Benzie counties, said the new waiver rules were effective. More than 700 Traverse City Area Public Schools students either had waivers or were not completely vaccinated or documented to be completely vaccinated at the end of last school year. TCAPS officials asked all parents to get their paperwork in order, and parents of more than 300 of those 700 students stopped by the health department looking to obtain waivers. Just more than 250 of them did.
“My feeling about these numbers from the TCAPS experience is itâs a real support to the idea that the waiver education made a difference,” Collins said.
Hooker said he was also concerned about vaccinations that were developed through the use of fetal tissue, parents and children being harassed by health departments, and the amount of time it takes to meet with someone from the health department.
Hooker said he’s also heard concerns that the waiver, which states that parents have been informed they may be putting their child and others at risk, could be sent to Child Protective Services.
Collins said that’s not the case.
“Obviously that’s not happening,” Collins said. “It is good, I think, to make it absolutely clear that the vaccine-preventable diseases have dangers and that if they choose to not vaccinate their children, they are placing their child in a form of danger that a vaccinating parent isn’t doing.”
Hooker also said he heard from mothers against “forced immunizations” who showed him data that “in many cases” deaths from immunizations exceeded deaths from the disease they tried to prevent.
“That’s really ridiculous,” Collins said, adding that thousands of deaths are prevented by vaccines every year, and before vaccines chicken pox caused about 100 deaths in the U.S. every year.
Collins said he’s also worried about part of the bill that keeps a health department from sending students home from school except in the case of an “epidemic.” He’s not sure whether the definition would include just two infected students, which prompted the recall from school at Glenn Loomis.
Hooker said that even though his children and grandchildren are vaccinated, he still wants people to have the choice not to vaccinate their children.