The US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has ruled (pdf) that a parent’s refusing vaccinations for her children against diseases is not a “free exercise” of religion, and is tantamount to neglect.
In April 2010, the Tuscarawas County (Ohio) Jobs and Family Services (TCJFS) took custody of the children of Charity and Brock Schenker as a result of a domestic violence matter between the parents. TCJFS determined that the children were “neglected and dependent” and worked out case plans for the parents which included psychiatric evaluations, drug testing and supervised visitation of their children. When TCJFS asked about the children’s immunizations, according to Secular News Daily, “Mrs. Schenker claimed she had religious objections to immunizations. The court informed her that the immunizations would be ordered.”
Vaccine deniers love to say that many (and some say all) vaccine preventable diseases are not dangerous, so why even take a tiny risk of an adverse event with vaccines to prevent these innocuous, harmless diseases. The problem with that belief is that it is simply untrue.
The CDC reported last week about a previously healthy 15 year old girl in Ohio who died from a chickenpox (Varicella zoster virus), a disease that is generally prevented by the varicella vaccine. The adolescent girl was admitted to a hospital after three days of a rash consistent with chickenpox with the last day experiencing fever and shortness of breath. The young girls was started on antibiotics and antifungals, to treat any concurrent infections, but she died three weeks later. The girl was current (or close to current) on her other vaccinations, MMR, DTaP, and Hib, but lived in an area that with low uptake of varicella vaccinations. Because deaths from chickenpox are so rare (about 100 people die of chickenpox every year in the USA), but not unknown, the Ohio Department of Health undertook a thorough investigation and concluded that the girl died from chickenpox, and there were no other comorbidities, including leukemia (which might have suppressed her immune system).
The complications from chickenpox occur mostly in susceptible groups such as infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Some of the more serious complications are:
infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
blood stream infections (sepsis)
toxic shock syndrome
It was very difficult to read the article. Most of the young girl’s organs failed, and she was in respiratory distress when she died. I cannot imagine being a parent watching what happened over three weeks while she was in the hospital. I can only imagine that the parents are beating themselves up over not having her vaccinated.
For those parents who are engaging in Pox Parties, where parents deliberately infect their children with flu, chickenpox and other vaccine-preventable diseases, understand that you might be putting your child at risk of dying. Please don’t do it.