The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but it’s got to get done.”

Does that threatening line sound familiar? Sure – you’ve heard it in a million gangster movies, spoken by ruthless mob bosses or by the hardnosed detectives obsessed with bringing them to justice.

But outside of a movie, have you ever actually known anyone to seriously speak those words?

Well, now you have.

That line was uttered by Glenn F. Ivey, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County here in Maryland. Was he trying to intimidate local gang members or maybe a kidnapper holding a hostage?

No. He was intimidating the parents of children who had not yet received required vaccinations.

Forced medication

On a recent cold, blustery Saturday morning, hundreds of parents lined up outside a Maryland courthouse. They were ordered there by the state’s attorney to explain why they had not had their children vaccinated. They also had the option of bringing their children along so the kids could receive multiple vaccinations on the spot.

The turnout for this event was excellent because parents had been notified that failure to comply would result in fines ($50 per day) and possible jail time.

This is beyond infuriating! It’s appalling that a government forces medication on children by threatening their parents with imprisonment, but it’s even more appalling that there’s actually no Maryland state law that calls for parents to be fined and jailed if they don’t submit their children to forced medication.

Here’s the catch: When school administrators bar kids from classes because they haven’t received mandatory vaccinations, the kids’ prolonged absence from school becomes grounds for fines and potential jail time for parents. So the parents aren’t keeping the kids out of school, the administrators are, but the parents are held liable.

Without that little catch the state’s attorney would have no leverage for intimidation.

Appalledand then some

Fortunately, there was a voice of reason present at the Saturday morning courthouse lineup where frightened parents (many with young children in tow) waited for hours in the cold. Representatives for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) were there to pass out fliers, informing parents of their rights.

The fliers made these eye-opening points:

  • Any parent has the right to claim an exemption from vaccine requirements
  • Exemptions can be made for either medical or religious reasons
  • Exemptions for medical reasons require the signature of a licensed doctor, but religious reasons require only the signature of a parent
  • The state cannot ask you to identify your religion

In an AAPS press release that was circulated the day before the courthouse showdown, Jane M. Orient, M.D., the executive director of AAPS, noted that when children are lined up like cattle in a county courtroom to receive multiple vaccinations without individual medical screening, they run the risk of severe medical reactions.

So why in the world would county officials put kids at risk? Two reasons come to mind: 1) The state’s attorney, the vaccine manufacturers, and the people giving the shots are completely immune from liability if the vaccines harm any of the children, and 2) According to the AAPS press release, a substantial amount of state funding for the school district will be lost if students and their parents don’t comply with the ordered vaccines.

Sorry, kids. We’d love to keep you safe, but you’ve got to understand it’s not personal – it’s business.

“Get Kids Vaccinated Or else, Parents Told” Nelson Hernandez, The Washington Post, 11/14/07,