Maren Caldwell is a volunteer for People Advocating Vaccine Education. The Charlotte-based nonprofit aims to help parents decide on the 23 doses of vaccines now required for every kindergarten-age child in the state, plus six more needed for enrollment when the child gets to 7th grade. From 2012 to 2016, the number of opt-outs has doubled in the state of North Carolina, causing panic by health officials.
According to a new article in the News Observer, Caldwell said, “Parents are waking up.” Currently, to claim a religious exemption, a parent needs only to write a statement “of the bona fide religious beliefs and opposition to the immunization requirements,” and give it to the child’s school in place of an immunization record. The statement doesn’t need to be prepared by an attorney, signed by a religious leader or notarized. No form is needed. The statement doesn’t go to the state for review or approval.
In 2015, Senator Jeff Tarte introduced a bill to rid the state of religious exemptions, which would essentially tighten the screws on opting-out of vaccines in any capacity. The bill was nixed when opposition fought back.
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“I’ve had parents tell me they use it because there is no way for the state to decline it,” Tarte said.
Tarte now wants to come down on parents who choose to not vaccinate by finding ways to pass much tougher laws. The article cites the following as an example as to why they feel the opt-outs are hurting North Carolina.
Since late November, Henderson County in Western North Carolina has seen 20 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and has identified another 1,000 people who had close contact with one of the patients. The outbreak of the potentially fatal respiratory illness started in the schools, the county said, and most of those who have fallen ill had been immunized, demonstrating that vaccines are not 100 percent effective. Health officials say that without the vaccine, those who get the illness might be sicker longer.
Here is Marene Caldwell with her take on the matter. Give it a watch.