Student Discrimination When It Comes To Immunisation

AT A GLANCE

  • Unvaccinated students discriminated against following a confirmed case of measles in a vaccinated primary school student.
  • New Zealand schools keep a register of which students have been vaccinated, and rely on these records when handling possible outbreaks.
  • The Immunisation Awareness Society calls for better protocols and deeper understanding of measles, risk and how it is spread to protect students and avoid discrimination and mishandling.
  • Know your rights: No school can remove your unvaccinated children until they have positive proof that clinical measles is the diagnosis. Children cannot be removed on “suspicion” of measles
  • Provide natural immunisation support and good health by: breastfeeding your child for at least the first year of life, and exclusively for at least the first 6 months; choosing organic, seasonal fruit and veg close to their natural state upon beginning solids; avoiding over the counter pharmaceutical products, especially paracetamol; and using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.

Following a recent, confirmed case of measles in a vaccinated Year 6 primary school student, the Immunisation Awareness Society (IAS) wishes to comment on the handling of the situation and offer support to all students, parents and school personnel around New Zealand, with the goal of fostering greater awareness of the potential spread of measles and equality of treatment for students involved in future similar situations.

The Immunisation Awareness Society aims to promote informed choices around immunisations. We wish to encourage an atmosphere of intelligent discussion, supportive questioning and safe lifestyle choices for adults and children when it comes to the question of whether or not to immunise.

Research tells us that vaccination is neither as safe nor efficient as the medical fraternity like to make out. Its success rates are not a comprehensive as general statistics indicate. We feel, instead, that the best way to protect your family from illness is through healthy diet and lifestyle choices. This way you will ensure your child has an uncompromised immune system, well able to cope with any natural childhood illness, resulting in natural lifelong immunity—something you will never get from any vaccine.

Conscientious objector parents who choose not to vaccinate their children do not come to such a decision lightly. It is with their children’s utmost care at heart that they decide to let their children’s bodies themselves become their best defence against natural illness. What we ask, for ourselves and for these parents, is that they not be willfully intimidated and that their children – innocent of any wrongdoing or decision – not be made scapegoats or discriminated against.

A recent situation on the North Island has shined light on an unfortunately all too common situation:

  1. A confirmed case of measles occurred. The student in question had been fully vaccinated.
  2. Vaccination records were checked, and some approximately 20 students who could not be confirmed vaccinated were removed from their classes and separated from the rest of the student body. These students had not been in class or close contact with the affected student.
  3. Approximately half of the students were allowed back to class when it was confirmed that their vaccination history was current, but their records had simply not been updated.
  4. The remaining unvaccinated students were sent home and stood down for some two weeks, missing end of term festivities, despite all showing good health and having no contact with the measles infected student.
  5. Despite the MMR being a live virus vaccine which can be shed for up to two weeks post vaccination, students were allowed back to school immediately following receipt of the MMR.

 

Student safety is incredibly important. So is student well-being. In this instance, the well-being of those 20 students was not handled carefully, responsibly or even adequately. It is not the wish of the IAS to blame or point fingers. We wish to simply expose systems that have proven to be ineffective and thereby harmful to some of our nation’s children.

We can begin by asking the question “Do vaccinations even work”? Not all of the time, clearly. How then can a small group of unvaccinated children who haven’t even been in contact with the ill child be a threat to the entire school population? Other vaccinated students and teachers, in close contact with the ill child, could potentially be at much greater risk to spreading measles, and yet none of them were made to leave school or miss critical milestones.

This is not, unfortunately, an isolated incident. In a letter dated 9 November 2011, from the Ministry of Health to schools around New Zealand, the Ministry recommends only separating unwell children: “If a child becomes unwell with possible measles, separate any unwell child from other children while waiting to be taken home. This helps minimise the risk of measles spreading.”

 While general suggestions have been made, there is no clear path to follow, and the Ministry of Health has elected to give individual schools the power to decide how to handle these situations. However, schools are not experts in the stemming of the spread of disease. What results is situations like the aforementioned, where students are discriminated against without proper reason.

 Ultimately, schools and teachers are in place to protect our children’s welfare. No matter your point of view on vaccination, we can no doubt agree that ostracizing students will have a negative impact. The situation requires empathetic, logical management and a clear set of protocols not clouded by fear or hysteria.

 Measles infection in children is typically quite mild, and many unvaccinated children contract the disease without even being aware, developing the only actual lifelong immunity. We, therefore, recommend that you have your unvaccinated school age children tested via a simple blood test to see if they carry immunity against measles, in the event they are threatened with temporary school expulsion during an outbreak.

 We are all, as parents, our children’s first line of defence and their greatest advocates. Let us not lose sight of where the dangers lie, and let us not punish innocent children for decisions their parents have made, with their best interests at heart.

 If you choose not to vaccinate, you have more than likely kept that decision close to your heart and quiet. Incidents like the one being discussed, while painful, create opportunities for likeminded parents and families to connect and support one another. At the same time, the IAS is always available for anyone who seeks information, answers and support.