At the start of 2015/16 school year, Montgomery County Public Schools instituted vaccination requirements for 7th and 8th graders. Students entering those two school years were required to be vaccinated against Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) and Meningococcal meningitis (MCV4) before the commencement of the school year. In addition, the county has urged students to receive flu vaccinations prior to the upcoming flu season and has organized various vaccination clinics.
These requirements come at a time when the subject of vaccinations is rife with controversy. In January, a Measles outbreak erupted in Orange County, California, infecting 117 people nationwide as a result. Many blamed the disease’s spread on the low level of vaccination rates in California schools, where parents could opt out for their children based on religious or personal beliefs. These exemptions prompted national outrage and compelled California to prohibit such exemptions under religious and personal beliefs.
However, in the state of Maryland, people can opt out of vaccines based on religious beliefs. According to Section 7-403 of the Maryland Code of Education, unless a state of medical emergency is declared, a child’s parent can object to immunization if it clashes with their religious beliefs. The student in turn “may not be required to present a physician’s certification of immunization in order to be admitted to school.”
However, many students in MCPS believe that vaccinations should be mandatory. “Not having a vaccine is selfish because you might give someone else a disease who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons,” stated Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS junior Erik Ridings.
“There is no downside for vaccinations,” B-CC Senior Daniel Crystal added.
MCPS parent Deborah Levine argued that students without vaccinations who cite religious grounds should not be allowed to attend public school. “They put other students at risk of contracting diseases,” Levine said.
These positions are in line with the national consensus. In a poll taken by CNN/ORC in February 2015, almost eight in ten Americans agreed that parents should be mandated to vaccinate their children against preventable infectious diseases.
To prevent the spread of influenza, MCPS has set up a number of vaccination clinics this fall. The first clinic takes place on October 19, from 4:30-7:30 PM at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, and is free of charge. That clinic is followed by two that require a $20 fee and will be held October 29 and November 12 from 8 to 4 at Germantown Health Center; and two that will be held November 6 and 17 at Silver Spring Health Center from 8 to 4.
This winter, it is vital to stay healthy and vaccinate against preventable infectious diseases. You can schedule an appointment online at the county’s flu website- http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/resident/flu.html. This flu season MCPS is doing its best to keep its students healthy, and not become the next Orange County.
Article by MoCo Student School News editor Max Cohen of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School