It’s been just over two weeks since Mississippi began allowing religious exemptions for school vaccinations, and so far, the Department of Health (MSDH) has approved over 600 applications.
On Monday, July 17, Mississippi joined most other states in granting religious exemptions per orders from a federal judge. By Friday, July 28, the agency had already received and approved 601 applications from parents requesting to opt their children out of some or all immunization requirements for K-12 students.
State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney, who disagrees with the new immunization policy, said on a recent episode of The Gallo Show that it’s virtually impossible to deny anyone’s application.
“We don’t have the right to challenge someone’s religious beliefs. That’s not what we do at the health department. The court wouldn’t allow it if we tried,” Edney said. “So, what we do is to mirror our medical exemption process and require folks to demonstrate a sincere belief through the application.”
The application for religious exemptions requires parents to fill out a form, citing beliefs that prevent their children from abiding by state-mandated immunization requirements. Parents will then have to visit a county health department for a short educational program discussing the “importance of vaccinations” before being allowed to choose which vaccines they don’t want their children to receive.
“We want them to understand the importance of vaccinations, understanding that vaccinations are one of the greatest public victories in the history of the world behind clean water and sewage and how important it is and why we have had this law in place to protect our most vulnerable children and adults who are immunocompromised,” Edney continued.
Mississippi was one of five states without religious or personal belief exemptions for school vaccinations before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden ruled in favor of a group of parents in April. The parents had argued that they were not able to school their children in Mississippi due to the so-called strict immunization policy.
The full interview with Edney can be watched below.