FRAZIER: Vaccination exemptions in Mississippi: A risk or a right?

Published 4:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

Mississippi Today recently reported on a court ruling that would allow parents in Mississippi to opt out of vaccinating their children for school on account of religious beliefs.

Since this ruling went into effect in July, nearly 700 parents have requested exemptions.

This ruling, in my opinion, is disheartening.

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In an article I wrote in 2015 concerning an outbreak of measles occurring in the U.S., I reported a similar bill of this nature had been introduced that same year. But it did not pass.

With no exemptions allowed, this meant Mississippi could remain the state with the highest vaccination rate.

I also reported that in 2013 and 2014 Mississippi had a 99.7-percent vaccination rate of kindergartners in public and private schools, the country’s highest, for three vaccines: measles, mumps and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; and varicella. The national median was 93.3 to 95 percent.

It was this statistic that I feel sure Vicksburg resident and State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney had on his mind during a recent interview with SuperTalk. “This is the one thing that I did not have to hang my head in shame about.”

When I wrote about vaccines in 2015, I had a hard time trying to understand why parents would refuse to give their children a sometimes life-saving vaccine. I still have a hard time.

However, I recognize now with the COVID-19 pandemic and the onslaught of varying information about the COVID-19 vaccine that some may call into question all vaccines for children.

But lest we forget, vaccines have saved lives and changed the quality of life for millions of people. I don’t know about you, but I remember when I had chickenpox, with all the scratching and calamine lotion. The virus was just as miserable when my children came down with it. Seeing them dealing with the sores and itching was just not fun.

As for polio, it has been practically irradicated in the U.S. But before there was a vaccine, the disease killed thousands and paralyzed about 15,000 people each year.

According to, during the 1950s polio epidemic, parents became so frightened city pools were closed, as well as movie theaters, schools and churches. Social distancing was even practiced.

Does this remind you of anything?

In the article I referenced earlier, I also interviewed Vicksburg pediatrician Dr. Gordon Sluis about the measles outbreak. I was interested in learning his perspective on the reported 121 measles cases in 17 states and its effects on people living in Vicksburg.

Sluis had said not to be panicked, “but be diligent about getting protection for both this outbreak and for future exposures.” There is no treatment for measles, he said, only prevention by immunization.

I also talked with him about the increased concerns over immunization complications and he concurred with Autism Speaks, the country’s largest Autism Spectrum Disorder activist group.

A statement from the group’s chief science officer Rob Ring stated, “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this search are clear; Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

With the onset of social media, information is dispersed and discussed like never before. I would urge parents before you take your cue from the internet, to talk with your pediatrician about having your child vaccinated.

Only time will tell if this new ruling that allows for religious exemption from vaccinations will affect our community and state.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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