Home-schooling to avoid vaccinations

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syringeIn 2003, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that more than 1 million children in the United States were home-schooled. Today, the National Home Education Research Institute estimates that number to have doubled, with about 2 million children receiving their education at home. Parents who choose to home-school their children do so for many reasons, but I would imagine most do so because they feel that their children will get a better education at home as opposed to a traditional school setting.

But a growing number of parents are choosing to teach their kids at home not just because they feel they can provide them a better education, but as a way to avoid being forced to immunize their kids against disease.

While many states allow children who attend public or private schools to obtain medical or religious exemptions from the immunizations, most states don't require home-schooled children to be vaccinated at all. But with recent outbreaks of measles being tied predominantly to unvaccinated, home-schooled children, health officials say it is time to change the rules.

Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Immunization Services Division, believes that exemptions from immunizations should be harder to get and that home-schooled children should be required to get them as well. "Somebody who has taken an exemption from school laws, like a philosophical or religious exemption, is 35 times more likely to get measles ... and 22 times more likely to get whooping cough," he says.

Arthur Caplan, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says that parents who argue that they are not putting anyone else at risk by not immunizing their children are wrong. "Unvaccinated children pose not only a risk to themselves but to their families, other children they come in contact with, and especially older people they might visit or encounter in a movie theater or mall," he said.

I am certainly no expert on the subject of vaccinations and the possible link to autism. My child has received her shots with no ill effects and for that I am thankful. But it is clear to me that if we are to avoid a resurgence of some scary childhood diseases, we need to figure this out fast.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.