A Michigan woman said she will “most likely” go to jail this week if she refuses a court order to vaccinate her 9-year-old son.
And Rebecca Bredow, it seems, is willing to take that risk.
“I can’t give in against my own religious belief,” she told The Washington Post on Saturday. “This is about choice. This is about having my choices as a mother to be able to make medical choices for my child.”
Bredow, who lives in a Detroit suburb, has been embroiled in a custody battle with her ex-husband, James Horne. Last November, an Oakland County court sided with Horne, ordering Bredow to get their son vaccinated. But she has so far not done so. Bredow said the county judge had given her until Wednesday to get her son the medically allowed amount of vaccination, which would be up to eight vaccines.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to have my side heard,” she said, adding later: “Most likely, I’ll be going to jail on Wednesday.”
Parents who either delay or refuse vaccinations for their children do so for a number of reasons, including religious, personal and philosophical beliefs, safety concerns, and a desire for more information from health-care providers, according to 2016 research published in the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
The American Medical Association has long decried allowing parents to decline vaccination for nonmedical reasons and has cited vaccines' ability to prevent diseases such as measles, mumps and other infectious diseases. Still, a majority of states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations. Nearly 20, including Michigan, provide exemption for religious and personal reasons. Only three, California, Mississippi and West Virginia, don’t allow nonmedical exemptions.
In Michigan, parents or guardians of children enrolled in public and private schools are required to attend an educational session, in which they learn about diseases that vaccines can prevent, before they’re given waivers for nonmedical purposes.
Bredow, who shares joint custody of her son with her ex-husband, said that’s what she had done. She added that she and Horne had initially agreed to delay their son’s vaccines for three months after he was born in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, she said they both agreed to suspend all immunizations, and their son has not had a vaccine shot since.
Horne did not return a call from The Post on Saturday, but his lawyer, Benton G. Richardson, told ABC News that the dispute is not about vaccinations.
“It is a case about Ms. Bredow refusing to comport with any number of the court’s orders and actively seeking to frustrate Mr. Horne’s joint legal custody rights,” Richardson said.
The legal dispute also comes amid a growing anti-vaccine sentiment, which began in 1998, when a medical journal published a now-discredited study linking vaccination with autism. The once-fringe movement has become more popular and received a nod of approval from Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested a link between vaccination and autism before he ran for president.
In January, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said the then-president-elect had asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines. A spokeswoman later said that Trump was exploring the possibility of creating a commission on autism.
The American Medical Association said in a statement that creating the commission “would cause unnecessary confusion and adversely impact parental decision-making and immunization practices.”
The plan appears to have stalled. Kennedy told STAT News last month that he has had no discussions with White House officials about the commission since February.
In Minnesota, which has experienced its worst measles outbreak in decades, anti-vaccine activists have stepped up their work to challenge efforts by public-health officials and clinicians to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease.
Bredow, whose marriage with Horne was annulled shortly after their son was born, said she is not against vaccination, reiterating that that choice should be left up to the parents.
Lena Sun contributed to this story.