Letter to the Editor: Concern Over Parental Rights, Not Vaccine Program

By Vivian Westfall
Los Alamos

This is in response to the letter to the editor by Dr. Tom Csanadi, “Vaccines-Elected Officials Should Not Feed Fear and Misinformation.”

There are several of us who were concerned over the recent changes to the vaccine exemption forms through the Department of Health (DOH.)

The concern was not that exemptions must be filed if one does not follow the vaccine schedule rigidly, but rather a concern that there is specific religious information being gathered and some parents were being turned down.

The challenge we parents find ourselves in is not one of questioning the vaccine program itself, but rather our right as parents to have the right to make those decisions and to find out what the state is doing with that information and what specific criteria the DOH is using in accepting or rejecting exemption applications.

We approached our senator, Sen. Richard Martinez, but with no response. We were grateful for Rep. Jim Hall and his willingness to speak to us about the larger issues of parental rights and religious freedom.

The concerns of parents when it comes to the recent changes in the vaccine exemption form certainly varies.

As a person that has lived and traveled in countries where the government has collected and categorized data on a person’s specific religious beliefs for potential persecution, I found the recent changes disturbing.

Furthermore, I took the responsibility of having limited the vaccines my children have received seriously. It was important enough to me that I went down to the DOH last year and asked for specific data on the immunizable diseases in New Mexico.

I was rather disturbed that the DOH did not have this information available. If we are “required” to vaccinate our children, I expected the DOH to have information available as to the specific risks to my family here in New Mexico.

Part of our meeting with our State Representative was to discuss how the DOH is handling vaccines, vaccine exemptions, and information regarding these diseases that
should be readily available to us.

What specifically is the DOH using with the data they are collecting? Who is deciding this information? What can we expect as we go through the process? What are our rights? Are our rights as parents being overlooked? Who is making the decisions regarding what should be on the vaccine schedule?

These were the kinds of questions we had for Representative Hall. We were very grateful he was so gracious to take time out of his busy schedule to discuss it with us.

From what I could tell, it certainly seemed that he appreciated us being educated parents trying to gather as much information as possible to make the best choices for our children.

We have been given the joy of having our children to raise and want to do the best job we possibly can and protect our right to do so.

We certainly understand and even appreciate the generalized concern that the government has in ensuring the next generation of New Mexicans are the very best they can be.

This certainly was not a case of Representative Hall feeding fear and misinformation, but rather him doing a lot of listening and appreciating how seriously we take
our job of raising our children to be healthy, well adjusted and productive members of society while raising them to be free to enjoy their childhood.

We greatly appreciate our State Representative doing his job so very well. He met with us, listened to our concerns without judgment and promised to help answer our basic questions.

We found Jim Hall to be just the kind of person we do indeed want representing us in the Roundhouse and in our community.

He should be able to find balance between representing his constituents while understanding what the State of New Mexico needs to do to best represent the interests of the State.


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