Days after a Michigan mother was put in jail for ignoring a court order to vaccinate her 9-year-old son, she said that given the choice, she would “do it all again.”
Rebecca Bredow, who lives in the Detroit area, was sentenced last week to nearly a week in jail for contempt of court almost a year after an Oakland County judge ordered her to have her son immunized.
“I was trying to protect my kids,” the 40-year-old mother told ABC News on Friday morning. “I was trying to stand up for what I believed in, and it was worth it for me to try and take the risk, because I was trying to stop the vaccinations from happening.”
“Never in a million years did I ever think that I would end up in jail standing up to try to protect my kids, and standing up for my beliefs,” she added.
In her fight against vaccinations, Bredow was jailed and lost primary custody of her son, then discovered that he was immunized against her wishes.
Her ex-husband, James Horne, who shares custody of their son, wanted the child to be vaccinated, but Bredow had refused to do it on religious grounds.
“I can’t give in against my own religious belief,” she told The Washington Post last month, adding she is not against vaccination. “This is about choice. This is about having my choices as a mother to be able to make medical choices for my child.”
But Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald told Bredow last week that she is not the only parent who deserves a say in their young son's care.
The judge granted Horne temporary custody of their son and ordered him to be vaccinated — and sentenced Bredow on Oct. 4 to serve seven days in county jail. The Oakland County Jail gives inmates a one-day credit after successfully serving five days behind bars, so Bredow was released about midnight on Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“It was the worst five days of my life pretty much,” she told the newspaper Wednesday about her time in jail, “except for the fact that I just found out that he was vaccinated and I'm not going to get him back today.
“It's been a rough few days to say the least,” she said.
Attorneys for each parent could not immediately be reached for comment.
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 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.
Bredow's version of Horne's agreement could not be independently confirmed. Attempts to reach his attorney Thursday morning were unsuccessful.
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 Trump, 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 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.
Several people who support Bredow gathered outside the Oakland County courthouse Wednesday, holding signs saying they “Stand with Rebecca” and “No Forced Shots.”
Bredow's attorney, Steven Vitale, told reporters Wednesday that the case is about more than vaccinations.
He told the Detroit Free Press that Bredow has been the child's primary custodian but on Wednesday the judge in the case approved a recommendation to have the mother and father split custody 50/50.
“She's devastated,” Vitale said of his client, according to the newspaper.
Still, Bredow said, she does not regret her decision about vaccinations.
Bredow told the Detroit Free Press that her time in jail was “horrific,” but “I still stand by my choices because I stand up for what I believe in.”