By Cathy Jameson
Back to school. I love this time of year. New supplies and new academic adventures await. My kids are somewhat excited to return to school but more so for the social aspect. They cannot wait to see their friends again. Friends are a good thing to have in life. I’m grateful for the ones I have, especially for the friends I’ve made online.
I belong to a lot more parenting groups now than I did when my children were younger. The people in these groups, many who have become personal friends, are a lifeline for me. From the old timers to the youngins’, many of whom are more in tune with their parental rights than I ever was at their age, we have a safe place to talk, vent, and collaborate. From poop talk to getting the skinny on who’s an autism friendly doctor or therapist, I’m drawn in to several conversations throughout the year. Since the start of school is right around the corner, some of the latest convos have been about school shots.
I’m seeing talk about shots in several groups that are medical- or vaccine-related and in typical parenting groups, too. People are asking if it’s true that their child must be vaccinated. I heard they don’t have to be but my district just sent me a notice. If I don’t get her the vaccine, she won’t get her schedule. Most who’ve chimed in to answer know quite a bit about vaccine law and about their rights. But, since not every member of the group is vaccine savvy yet, they’re gently reminding the newer folks that what some of the schools and health departments are saying about school shots is misleading. Once that newbie parent is provided the accurate information, that yes, their child can still go to school without getting that Tdap vaccine or that booster, some of the parents band together to set the district straight.
And off they go to politely tell the district, or the health department, or the school administrator that they’ve forgotten something very important. Where a district shares only part of the law, the parents include what’s been left out – that all 50 states offer at least one type of vaccine exemption.
If you’ve learned that your local district or health department is keeping information from you and other parents of school age children, do you chime in? Do you let that district representative, or administrator, or health department employee, or school nurse know what they’ve done? I have. One nurse was very receptive. She even went so far as to apologize for neglecting to add that exemptions were indeed still a valid option. Another time, a different nurse was not as receptive. I already knew the information, but tested her by asking if I could turn in an exemption instead. Begrudgingly, she said yes. I then requested that she please consider citing the entire law – to include that exemptions existed – when she made future announcements about vaccines. She was miffed and let me know just how angry I’d made her. Why was she angry? Because I asked her to be honest with the parents and children she was being paid to serve?
Honesty will always be the best policy, especially when risks are involved.
Unfortunately, many parents are still unaware that the law (in most states) includes being able to opt out of “school shots”. Unless someone knows how to search for it, though, that information may not be easily found. Not sure about what your state’s vaccine exemptions include? Check out this map:
Photo credit: NVIC.org
The NVIC website has more detailed information which I’d encourage parents to read. Another great resource is Vaxtruth. Each of those websites lists other vaccine topics that I believe are worth reading to include legislation alerts. The online alerts can, and have, very quickly notified the people that it’s time to rally in person.
Because our children’s health rights are worth fighting for, scores of parents across the US made a point to be in their home state’s capital during vaccine legislative meetings and hearings. They did everything they could to be heard and seen and to help kill several vaccine bills. Not every state representative listened to nor appreciated the presence of the concerned parents, but that hasn’t stopped these parents from continuing to work together. I see that in the online groups that I currently belong to.
Moms and dads take time to help each other. They take time to layout the facts, all of the facts. They have lengthy conversations about vaccines, vaccine exemptions, and vaccine choice, something that vaccine advocates don’t seem to care to bring up. I encourage the talking and sharing that’s going on parent-to-parent. When parents know more, I believe they'll be able to make not just a good decision but an informed one.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
Other posts from Cathy about vaccine exemptions can be found here: