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Parents saying 'no' to vaccines

Parents saying 'no' to vaccines
Eyewitness News

Meriden -- Connecticut boasts the highest child immunization rates in America but not everyone sees that as good news.  Some parents say vaccines have caused their children's debilitating illnesses and they are fighting to give other parents the choice to say no.

Jonathan Morrissey can recite Dr. Seuss and spin and spin without getting dizzy and now he can almost keep up in the third grade.  Jonatham is autistic but his parents say he was born completely healthy and crawling and walking on time as a toddler. 

Jonathan's parents say that all changed after a series of immunizations and by the time Jonathan reached preschool he was just sitting silently while his classmates flourished.

"It felt like we were losing him into a world of darkness" said his mother, Carolyn Morrissey.

The boy's parents do not blame any one vaccine but say they are certain he had a reaction to some of the ingredients in those shots.  It was a reaction no pediatrician ever warned them about.  So now they are urging other parents to do the research themselves.

"If more parents opt out of certain vaccines.. more dangerous ones.. then it would make the pharmaceutical companies try to develop a safer vaccine,"said Mark Morrissey, father.

However, in the state of Connecticut parents cannot refuse certain vaccines for their children.  Every child has to have 21 shots before starting preschool unless he or she has a medical or religious exemption.  Twenty other states allow for "philosophical exemptions."

"From a public health perspective.. we would oppose a philosophical exemption, anything that would weaken or undermine what our achievements are,"said Vincent Sacco, State Immunization Director.

Those achievements are significant and include the near elimination of polio, measles and whooping cough.  Sacco says that could not have happened unless immunizations were mandatory.  He also says that many parents turning to the Internet for answers are getting bad information.

"You take the credible information that's available, the studies that have been conducted, and you evaluate that, and you discuss that with your provider and make a conscious decision based on that,"said Sacco.

The Morrisseys say parents should not have to lie if they simply do not trust the government or research they say is tied to the pharmaceutical industry.

"There are thousands of parents who believe the exact same way that we believe,"said Carolyn,"And there's a lot of parents who are afraid to speak up about vaccines, because, of course, they're told that their child can't go to school or things of that such, so they are fearful."

The Morrisseys are only fearful now that other children will struggle unnecessarily with autism much more severe than Jonathan's case.