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A Detroit-area woman has been jailed for seven days for refusing a court order to vaccinate her kids. But the case is not about vaccines; it's about following the court’s order, the judge said.
There are no laws in the U.S. simply requiring parents to vaccinate their children, even though there is no doubt that vaccines protect children against deadly diseases. States regulate vaccination and do so by requiring immunizations for children to attend schools and daycare centers.
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There is no civil or criminal penalty for refusing to vaccinate children in any state, and all states allow parents to opt out for medical reasons. Some states also allow parents to decline to vaccinate their kids for philosophical or religious reasons, although no organized religion explicitly disallows vaccination.
What Rebecca Bredow’s case is about is her refusal to follow orders she agreed to, said Oakland County, Michigan, Circuit Court Judge Karen McDonald.
“You agreed in a consent order to vaccinate your child,” McDonald told Bredow in the sentencing hearing, widely covered by national and international media.
“I understand you love your children. But what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents. And dad gets a say.”
But that has not stopped the vaccine skeptics and vaccine opponents from taking on the cause as a vindication of their views. They gathered outside the courthouse to demonstrate and have been sharing reports about the case on social media, saying it’s about choice.
Michigan allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for non-medical reasons, but they must speak to a health educator first.
“Any parent/guardian who wants to claim a nonmedical waiver will need to receive education regarding the benefits of vaccination and the risks of disease from a county health department before obtaining the certified nonmedical waiver form through the Local Health Department,” the Michigan health department says on its website.
Bredow has framed it as a choice and said her ex-husband Jason Horne had broken a verbal agreement to limit vaccination of their children.
“I am not a lazy parent. I am a passionate mother who cares deeply about my children, their health and their well-being,” Bredow told the court.
“If my child is going to be forced to be vaccinated, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
But McDonald contradicted her.
“What you just said, that he has a new-found objection, is not true. You acknowledge in your own pleading that your child at a year old was up to date on all vaccinations,” McDonald said.
Bredow has disregarded other court orders and agreements made as part of her divorce from Horne, changing schools and therapists without the consent of the childrens’ father, McDonald said.
“You signed a waiver for vaccinations without dad’s consent,” McDonald noted.
“And you’ve repeatedly stated over the past several days publicly that you will not follow this court order. So I am sentencing you to seven days in jail.”
It’s the only way to punish Bredow for her refusal to follow the agreements, McDonald said.
“Contempt is a serious and critical power that the court has. It’s available to the court to enforce orders,” she added.
“It’s clear to me that you don’t care about orders, even if you agree to them — which you did.”
Anti-vaccination groups have become louder and bolder in their efforts to not only allow their own children to go without vaccines, but to encourage other parents to opt out of vaccination, also.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and every other legitimate medical organization all strongly urge vaccination as the best way to protect individual children and the population.