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Thursday, August 11, 2022


Mandatory immunization of school children has become a hot-button issue in the Virgin Islands, with a small group of parents contending they shouldn't have to have their children inoculated against such diseases as measles, diptheria and polio.
Some of those parents urged members of the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday night to rewrite the law to allow exemptions to immunization on philosophical or spiritual grounds.
The only exemptions now are for medical or religious reasons.
Health officials countered that mandatory inoculations before children enter kindergarten are essential to protect the community from outbreaks of controllable diseases.
Some senators agreed.
"Based on my first-hand knowledgte, there are those among us who say that vaccinations carry certain risks, but not being vaccinated carries even greater risks," Sen. Lorraine L. Berry said, according to Thursday's Independent.
Sen. Anne Golden agreed, saying, "We must come to a common ground which respects the rights of the individual and groups while protecting the health and safety of the community at large."
Dr. Dorcas Velez, who owns a health products store in Nisky, said exemptions should be allowed on the basis of good nutrition, according to the Daily News report. "If you go natural, you don't need it," she said.
Health officials urged senators to clarify the law that now allows waivers if a parent or guardian attests that immunizations clash with "the principles and teachings of a recognized religious organization or church." This is too vague, they said, to deal with the 75 or so requests from parents for exemptions based on spiritual beliefs. In some cases they have granted temporary waivers in anticipation that senators will clarify the existing law.
V.I. school children must now present certificates of immunization before they can enter kindergarten. Health officials who run that immunization program said 90 percent of V.I. children from 18 to 35 months old have been immunized. One pediatrician said 95 percent of all children should be immunized to ensure public health.
Some parents said they have sent their children off-island for schooling rather than have them immunized.

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