Across the States
“We’re Saving the Vaccine for Public School Students”
A southwest Virginia homeschooling mother brought her two children, one of whom had a respiratory issue, to the public health department for an H1N1 vaccination, but department officials told her, “We’re saving the vaccine for public school students.” In northern Virginia, another homeschooling mom asked the Alexandria school system if her kids could be vaccinated with public school children. Alexandria promptly rebuffed her request.
What does Home School Legal Defense Association have to do with flu vaccinations? If homeschoolers are being discriminated against—everything!
HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff called the Alexandria officials, but they insisted that school officials could decide who receives vaccinations on school property. For our member in southwest Virginia, Woodruff contacted a state health department official, who promptly placed a call to ensure that the homeschooled children received the vaccinations.
Woodruff followed up with the state official and asked if unvaccinated children would get priority treatment at local public health departments consistent with their status as members of a “target group” identified by the Center for Disease Control. The surprising answer: no. She said that homeschooled children—who don’t have access to all the convenient public school vaccination events—would have to get in line and be treated like people who are not in a target group.
Confronted with this unsatisfactory situation, Woodruff sent a memo to the state commissioner of health.
This began a chain of events that led to a statewide conference call with Woodruff; Yvonne Bunn of Home Educators Association of Virginia; Parish Mort of Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers; Dr. Karen Remley, state commissioner of health; Dr. Diane Helentjaris, state office of epidemiology; and others. Woodruff asked Remley to instruct local public health departments to set aside special times each week when unvaccinated children may receive priority treatment. Bunn and Mort agreed that more needed to be done for homeschooled children.
Remley made no commitment during the conference call, but a few days later she began instructing public health departments to set up (at least) weekly pediatric vaccination clinics.
Many parents have good reasons to not vaccinate their children. But those who want vaccines can now expect their children, as members of a target group, to have equitable access when the vaccine is available at public health departments.
In a follow-up conference call, Remley said that she expected there would be enough vaccine for everyone who wanted it by December.
— by Scott A. Woodruff