Saturday, October 18, 2008

MS homeschoolers and vaccination in the news (updated)

Update (10/18/08): According to Joyner, the Clarion Ledger was printing a correction today regarding the requirement of homeschoolers in Mississippi to register. Can anyone confirm this? It is not on the web site.

Although homeschooling seems to be playing a less significant role in the local vaccination discussion, it isn't going away. A version of this article and the correction will drop in USA Today some time this week.

I got a media request about two weeks ago from Chris Joyner, the reporter who wrote this piece. In my opinion, vaccination is not a homeschool issue (it's a parents' rights issue). I didn't respond, because I don't have a horse in that race. Plus, I knew there'd be contradictions like this:
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported measles cases had spiked, with 131 cases reported for the first seven months of the year, compared to an average of 63 cases per year since 2000. Of the infected patients, 91 percent were unvaccinated, most because of "philosophical or religious beliefs." None of the cases was in Mississippi.
What percentage of the 91% were homeschoolers? If a local journalist is going to link home education and non-vaccination in Mississippi, that is one question he should have asked. He should also do his homework:
Like many states, Mississippi does not require parents to register their children if they intend to home school.
Wrong, Mr. Joyner. Look it up. Homeschoolers register with local attendance officers once a year (whether or not we are "required" to is another issue entirely. The point is that we do.).

Since Mississippi is one of only two states that does not allow religious/philosophical exemptions for vaccinations, that means that there are scores of children in other states who are going to public and private schools despite the fact that they have not had their shots. it a compliance issue or a homeschool issue? Should all children be caught in the "vaccine net" or just homeschoolers? Should Mississippians even be concerned about this? I dunno. The writer does not address those questions, either.
All states allow unvaccinated children to attend school with a medical doctor's excuse. Mississippi and West Virginia alone allow no exemptions beyond medical necessity, leaving parents with home-schooling as the only option if they do not want to have their children vaccinated.
That's almost misleading. Many homeschooling families (dare I say most) vaccinate their children. And the homeschooling families I know personally who opt not to vaccinate or who practice selective vaccination are not fugitives hiding the kids in the basement from the vax police; they're serious about home education.

Last year, Arthur Caplan, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, co-authored an article in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics advising states to get more serious about compelling the vaccination of home-schooled students [snip].
The article - or excepts from it - have been passed around among home-schooling advocates the past year as evidence of a conspiracy to force mandatory vaccinations on their children.
Lovely, the homeschooler-as-gov't-conspiracy-theorist stereotype.

Was the article passed around by homeschooling advocates or anti-vaccine advocates? Those two phrases are not interchangeable. I think Mr. Joyner needs to be more careful with that broad brush.

Whether one opposes or supports vaccination, the bottom line is this: homeschoolers are not hazardous to your health.

No comments: