Prince George's has been struggling to get its 131,000 students immunized for chicken pox and hepatitis B, as is required by the state. More than 2,300 students have not been immunized, and have therefore been barred from attending schools.
School officials have previously made calls, sent letters and conducted home visits in attempts to make arrangements for free appointments for the shots.
The most recent round of letters ordered the parents to show up at Prince George's Circuit Court for a court hearing and free on-the-spot vaccinations of up to 17 required doses.
Any child lacking immunizations can be expelled, and their parents then brought up on truancy charges, which can result in a 10-day jail sentence for the first offence, and 30 days for a second.
Angry and upset parents called county’s action “intimidating,” and “very heavy handed.”
School officials deemed the court action a “success,” as the number of children lacking vaccinations dropped from 2,300 to about 1,100 by Friday November 16. That leaves about 900 children out of compliance with the vaccination requirements, said school system spokesman John White.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) issued a press release condemning Maryland’s vaccine roundup, promising to do everything it can to support parents who refuse to immunize their children.
“This power play obliterates informed consent and parental rights,” said Kathryn Serkes, director of policy for the AAPS, one of the few national physician groups that refuse corporate funding from pharmaceutical companies. “This campaign of intimidation to brutally enforce blanket vaccine mandates by government agencies and the school district gives no consideration for the rights of the parents or the individual medical condition of the child.”
The AAPS press release goes on to state, “Children should be carefully screened, medical records taken and decisions made carefully – not in an ad hoc assembly-line clinic in a county courtroom and under the brutal watch of law enforcement. This is a man-made disaster ready and waiting to detonate. Children could receive a dangerous cocktail of several vaccines without proper examinations.”
“The procedure is reckless and subjects children to the risk of severe reactions. Physicians would not be allowed to treat children in this way, without individual histories and physical exams – or informed consent,” said Jane M. Orient, M.D., AAPS Executive Director.
Interestingly, the state's attorney, Mr. Glenn Ivey himself apparently has no problem invoking his own right to informed consent and parental control. In a radio interview on Thursday, November 15, he admitted that he has chosen to refuse the hepatitis B vaccines for his own children. The AAPS stated that Mr. Ivey’s “galling hypocrisy” clearly demonstrates that not every vaccine is right for every child.