Minn. Wants to Add Required Child Vaccines, But Some Object

Updated: 06/25/2013 10:18 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

Minnesota's more than one million school children would be required to get three more vaccines if the state health department's plan is approved by an administrative law judge, but a vocal minority of parents are planning a showdown later this week to try and defeat the proposal.

The Minnesota Department of Health's proposed changes to the Child Care Immunization Law would put the state in line with states across the country as well as federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines, according to Kris Ehresmann, director of the infection disease division at MDH.

"These are important vaccines that kids need to get," Ehresmann said in an interview, "and we want to make sure that they're getting them."

The state has filed a list of a dozen proposed changes. Among the most substantial, the state would require for the first time Hepatitis A and Hepatitus B vaccines, along with meningococcal, and would switch out the current Tetanus shot for a more comprehensive one known as a DTAP which covers Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertusis.

They are changes many other states have already made and the federal government recommends, said Ehresmann.

"It seems like a lot of shots, but actually it's less of a burden for your child's immune system," Ehresmann explained.

"The vaccines are safer and better made."

But a coalition of groups, concerned about the possible adverse reactions to vaccinations in general, is opposing the proposal and is urging parents to pack a hearing Thursday before an administrative law judge who will decide whether the health department can implement the new requirements.

Mother of two Patti Carroll sits on the board of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota and is helping to lead the fight against the proposed changes.

"I don't think it's wise to, you know, forge ahead and push more vaccines until we know that the current schedule is safe," Carroll explained in an interview Tuesday.

"I would hope that people would show up if they have concerns and speak to the administrative law judge. He is the one we need to convince that these rule changes are not necessary and they are not reasonable," said Carroll.

While more than 98 percent of Minnesota children do get vaccinated, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation in 2009 based on immunization records from every school district in the state revealed a 71 percent spike in the number of conscientious objection exemptions for at least one of the required vaccinations from 2004-2009.

Data provided Tuesday by the health department showed a 1.58 percent exemption rate for kindergartners in the 2012-2013 school year and a 1.13 percent for all grades. But the figures provided were for children exempted for all vaccines and may omit those who were exempted for some vaccines but did received others.