Friday, October 17, 2008

Vaccine Foes Rally for Bill

Four-month-old Gianna DiFiglia died only two days after being injected with four different vaccines at a routine doctor visit.

Thursday, her mother, Patricia DiFiglia of Hackettstown, stood on the State House steps with a picture of her daughter in the air, underlined by the words "Murder," protesting mandatory children vaccinations.

The issue has come to a head since New Jersey became the first in the nation to require annual flu shots for preschoolers last month. DiFiglia said she is scared to let her two other children get the mandatory shots, but the decision is difficult because schools mandate the vaccinations.
"I really want the choice without fail to be able to say no, especially with the flu shot," said DiFiglia, 41. "It's just ludicrous that they are mandating it in New Jersey."

DiFiglia was one parent in a passionate crowd of 200 adults and children rallying for the passage of a bill allowing for conscientious objection exemptions to mandatory vaccinations. Many in the crowd held up signs saying "Our Kids, Our Choice," or "Mother Knows Best."

Those opposing the mandatory vaccinations say parents should have ultimate say on what shots their children get and that chemicals in the vaccines can cause serious neurological disorders, such as autism.
Health officials strongly oppose such exemptions, saying they would open the door for widespread disease. They view vaccines as a great advancement in medicine that has eliminated diseases such as polio.
"Vaccines have really changed the face of medicine," said Lawrence Frenkel, a physician at the Children's Hospital at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick. "It has saved millions of lives and prevented countless epidemics of horrible, deadly disease."

New Jersey last month became the first state to require annual flu shots for preschoolers and approved three additional required vaccinations. All told, children need 11 disease-related vaccinations, some requiring multiple doses, to enter day care or preschool in the state, state Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Marilyn Riley said.

While 19 states have conscientious-objection laws on the books, New Jersey currently allows for exemptions only for medical or religious reasons. A hearing on the proposal was held in June, but the bill still has not been acted upon.

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