It’s well-known in this area that I am “in the know” when it comes to parental rights, vaccinations, and how to get your child out of them. People often contact me to figure out what they need to do and where they need to go to pick up one of those cherished exemption forms. Yesterday, I was contacted by a local mother who had attempted to get a religious exemption form in Missouri at their local health department but was told “the state wouldn’t allow them to pass out exemption cards anymore.”
Right away I smelled a rat. You see, Missouri requires children who attend school to be vaccinated but they also allow both religious and medical exemptions, which requires that a parent go to their local health department to pick up this exemption card to keep on file at their child’s school. I wasn’t aware that Missouri had abolished their religious exemption. If they had, I am sure I would have heard about it on the news.
So, I stayed up all night stewing over it and set my alarm for 8 a.m. so I could call the “health department in question” and press them on this issue. When the phone rang a pleasant lady answered. I informed her that Missouri law allows one to opt out of vaccinations by filling out a religious exemption card from the health department and I asked if I could pick up a card. She quickly told me that the “state” said they were no longer allowed to pass out religious exemption cards.
After questioning her further she finally suggested I drive a few hours to the health department located in the state capital and maybe they could give me one. Really? There’s new legislation that requires a parent who wants to opt out of vaccinations for religious reasons to drive six or more hours round-trip to get this little card…a little card that the state government’s health website says health departments have on hand?
When I asked her to give me the name and contact information of the person who made this decision she told me to call the health department in Jefferson City (the state capital). I’m guessing she didn’t think I would actually call, but I did. I got on the phone with the Jefferson City Health Department, and ask them what I needed to do to get a religious exemption. They were very nice and respectful of my parental rights and told me I just needed to come in and get an exemption card. Really? That’s it? I said.
I explained that I was a few hours away and told them what the lady from the local health department had been telling families in the area. I was informed that there was no such requirement that health departments stop passing out religious exemption cards and that I should contact my local health department and tell them to order more.
I called the local health department back and finally got transferred to someone in charge of their immunization side of things. She gave me the same story, that the state told them they can’t pass out religious exemption cards anymore. And then I informed her that I had contacted the state and this was not the case. I asked her for the person’s contact information who had supposedly told her this and her story changed again. This time, they had run out of religious exemption cards.
“We’ve had these forms for 20 years. Rarely do people ask for them. We ran out. We are for vaccinations,” she said.
“That’s great, I replied. I respect your individual beliefs, but some people have religious objections to vaccinations and those people are entitled to their legal exemption, and you are the health department, and you are required to have them on hand.”
She then informed me that she wasn’t aware of any law that required the health department to provide exemption cards and that if people wanted them they could go to other health departments. “Can’t you just get them in another county, or a drug store, or the library?”
Are you kidding me? You are the local H-E-A-L-T-H Department who serves…the health needs of the locals! No, you cannot get a medical or religious exemption card at the library. I then offered to call the state health department for her and contact members of the local health board and run her thoughts past them.
“I do all the calling about immunizations for this health department,” she said. (Apparently not since she had “forgotten” to order more exemption cards and didn’t have the fake contact information for the imaginary person she supposedly spoke to from the state.)
By this time she was getting very snarky and defensive. Rightly so. She was just caught in a lie…several actually. I finally got her to “agree” to order more exemption cards to which she replied that they wouldn’t be in for six weeks or so. “You know the state, she said.” In my mind I was thinking, “How ironic that these exemptions will miss getting to the health department before all of the little children have to be vaccinated before attending school.”
I told her that I was going to call the state and make sure the local health department was rush shipped a batch of religious exemption cards. Then, I told her I would be following up to make sure she received them. And finally, I decided to call the health department board so that they could be apprised that the local health department was misleading individuals into believing their was no vaccine exemption, lying, and not providing the information on vaccination exemptions that the state government assures they will have on hand.
The Bigger Issue
You would think this event is a rare occurrence, but it’s not. Just last year I ran into the same issue as the mother above when I tried to obtain a medical exemption card from a different health department in a different state. I had to call the state government, the U.S embassy, an immigration doctor, and the CDC before I was told the exemption card I needed was in fact…at the health department…who I had already questioned several times.
With that being said, individuals and health departments are trying to find (illegal) and strategic ways of infringing upon your vaccination exemptions. Religious exemptions often require that you pick up a card from the health department, but the health departments are telling parents the “state” is not allowing them to pass them out anymore (which is false), and giving people the impression that no religious exemption exists…or telling them they have to drive a few hours to the state capital to get one. They are banking on the fact that you do not have a brain, and that the “hassles” they are imposing will encourage parents to just give up and vaccinate their kids.
What You Should Do
If you are trying to figure out which exemptions your state offers, check out the National Vaccine Information Center’s resource here. Some schools will accept online copies of these exemptions forms. You can find them here. Some health departments have a downloadable version on their website (though they usually won’t tell you that they do). If your state requires that you pick up a card from your local health department and they make up an excuse for not having them, press them on this issue and hold them accountable. Call the health department at your state capital, notify your legislators, or call your cousin on the local health department board.
To be honest though, a majority of the time questioning what they tell you will do the trick, especially if it is inconsistent with your state’s laws. If you are a fan of parental rights like I am, this issue is too important to ignore.
Hands off my exemption..and hands off yours too!
TLB recommends you visit Living Whole for more great/pertinent articles and information.
See featured article and read comments here: http://www.livingwhole.org/what-to-do-when-youre-told-you-cant-get-a-vaccine-exemption/