LIHUE — Hawaii has updated its rules for school immunizations.
Proponents of the rule updates say it will lead to healthier students and a decrease in communicable disease. Opponents are already gearing up to appeal the changes to HAR 11-157, signed by Gov. David Ige.
Concerns are that the immunizations themselves aren’t safe for children and that the new rules will restrict religious and medical freedom.
“What this means is that now schools have to report any students, or people, who don’t immunize,” said Kauai resident Toni Liljengren, who has been involved in the anti-vaccination movement for about 30 years.
She continued: “We have a right to medical and religious freedom in America. Our medical privacy just got blown away. What Ige just signed has allowed for a lot more damaged children through permanent disabilities like autism, and death.”
According to the Department of Health, religious and medical exemptions will still be recognized in the state, philosophical or personal belief exemptions are not. The new requirements for school entry will begin July 1, 2020.
DOH says vaccines do not cause autism and have an excellent safety record.
Announced by DOH on Tuesday, the new requirements will bring the state’s Department of Education back in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national recommendations, according to state officials.
“These requirements protect not only the health of our students but their families and our communities as well,” said state health director Bruce Anderson. “Ensuring our students are vaccinated provides protection for those who are too young to be vaccinated and those with medical conditions, such as cancer, who cannot be immunized.”
Now child care/preschool entry students are required, to have received vaccines for Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Hepatitis A (Hep A), Hepatitis B (Hep B), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), Polio (IPV), and Varicella (chickenpox).
In addition, all seventh-grade students must have received vaccinations for Tdap, HPV (human papillomavirus vaccine) and MCV (meningococcal conjugate vaccine).
Outbreaks of diseases like the measles are on the rise in the U.S. and Hawaii isn’t the first state to take a second look at student vaccine requirements.
Maine made similar changes that will be effective Sept. 1, 2021. New York recently eliminated religious exemptions. Washington, Mississippi, West Virginia and California have all reworked vaccination laws as well.
Nationwide, concerned parents and opponents of vaccinations are organizing against the new laws, saying mandatory vaccinations are a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The topic boils down to a clash of philosophy between pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. Both camps are dedicated to health and safety of America’s children, but don’t see eye to eye on the safety of vaccinations.
Anti-vaxxers cite conspiracy between the CDC and pharmaceutical companies leading to the promotion of unsafe drugs to the American public.
Pro-vaxxers cite a long history of immunizations ending the spread of disease and point out FDA, CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal agencies routinely monitor use of vaccines and investigate any potential safety concerns.
As states are reworking their mandatory vaccine rules, opponents are organizing a nationwide Millions March on Aug. 31 to promote medicinal freedom and oppose mandatory vaccines.
There isn’t a Kauai march scheduled for that day, but Liljengren and other anti-vaxxers will be attending a Sept. 14 meeting on Oahu to join forces with those opposing the new rules.
“I’ll bring information back from that to Kauai,” Liljengren said. “We talked to Ige and he didn’t listen to us. We’re unhappy. We’re appealing it.”
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at email@example.com
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct errors.