TOPEKA — Individual rights collided with the rights of society in a hearing Wednesday over whether to allow more children to bypass required immunizations.
Monica DeGraffenreid of Wichita said parents should be allowed to decide whether their children should be vaccinated.
“We are well-educated and well-informed adults,” DeGraffenreid said to the House Health and Human Services Committee during a standing-room-only hearing. “We’re not asking for the world. We are simply asking for our parental rights to be respected,” she said.
State law requires children to be immunized against a number of diseases, such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, to be enrolled in school. The law allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Under House Bill 2094, a parent or guardian would be allowed to exempt their child for reasons of conscience or personal belief.
Supporters of the bill said that the religious exemption was too narrow and unfair.
“In essence, if I do not belong to a religious denomination, I am apparently unworthy of an exemption,” said Erik Leon, a pharmacist from Topeka.
Several parents said they weren’t against all vaccinations but after doing research they determined the risk of some vaccines outweighed the benefits. They want the power to chose which ones their child receives.
Others testified that vaccines contained dangerous levels of metals and were actually doing more harm than good.
But several health care professionals said allowing more exemptions would result in more illnesses, some of which could be fatal and put at risk children who haven’t received a vaccination yet because they are too young.
Dr. William Keough, a pediatrician at Kansas University Hospital, said, “Vaccines are safe. The diseases that vaccines prevent cause death.”
State Epidemiologist Charles Hunt said immunizations are one of the most successful strategies in public health. He said studies show that states that have widened exemptions have seen an increase in the instances of preventable diseases. Representatives of the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments also testified against the bill.
Committee Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said she did not support the bill.
“I remember the days of polio,” she said.
The committee took no action on the measure.