Vaccine foes speak out against Kansas plan to require more school shots
TOPEKA — Vaccination opponents in Kansas have mobilized against a plan from the state health department to require more immunizations children in school and day care.
The Wichita Eagle reports that dozens of them packed a public hearing on a regulation drafted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The new rule would require children in school and day care to be vaccinated against meningitis and hepatitis A. The state already requires immunizations against polio, diphtheria, measles, German measles, whooping cough, mumps, chickenpox and hepatitis B. The change could take effect later this year, depending on how the department responds to comments.
The new rule would put Kansas in line with recommendations from the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, which guides vaccine use in the U.S. Kansas’ health department also pursued greater vaccination requirements amid outbreaks of measles, a disease easily prevented with a shot.
The new rule would preserve exemptions from vaccination mandates for medical or religious reasons, but many people in the hearing said the requirements give the government too much power. They also argued that vaccine skeptics are ignored and problems kept quiet.
“Vaccine science is tobacco science,” said Tasha Haas, a writing instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College who spoke against the requirement.
Vaccine opponents said parents should decide whether their children are immunized and suggested that a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights gives people an absolute right to make their own medical decisions.
But health department spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said the remarks at Thursday’s hearing are only a small portion of the comments that the agency has received about the rule in the past 60 days.
A handful of health advocates and health care professionals at Thursday’s hearing emphasized the importance of vaccines.
Gretchen Homan, a Wichita pediatrician and chairwoman of the Immunize Kansas Coalition, said children need to be able to attend school without fear of becoming sick from infectious disease.
“There are things in this world that we cannot change,” Homan said. “But the things I can protect them from, like infectious disease, I will make that choice.”