FERNDALE, MICH. - A Ferndale mother who served five days in jail for violating a court order to vaccinate her son is heading back to court hoping to prevent any future shots.
Rebecca Bredow, 40, must convince Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald that avoiding future shots is "in the best interests of the child," her lawyer, Clarence Dass, said.
Bredow opposes vaccines while the boy's father, Bredow's ex-husband James Horne, wants the boy vaccinated.
"We plan on bringing in an expert," Dass said, adding that he had not confirmed yet who it will be.
Bredow likely faces a skeptical judge. McDonald's patience with Bredow seemed to wane earlier this month when she found Bredow in contempt of court for ignoring a Sept. 27 order to vaccinate the child.
McDonald said that Bredow had agreed in November to follow a pediatrician's advice on immunizations. But Dass disputes that, saying Bredow never agreed to that provision, which was included in court filings by a lawyer who no long represents Bredow.
"That was never placed on the record. It was done by the lawyers in chambers," Dass said. "She didn't know that was part of the order."
McDonald sent Bredow to the Oakland County Jail on the contempt charge, where she stayed just over five days before being released. When Bredow appeared in court after her release, she learned that her son had been given two vaccinations while in his father's custody.
Bredow's effort to avoid vaccines will be following a path of another vaccine-averse mother, Lori Matheson, tried earlier this month. Matheson testified for more than a hour about her personal objections to vaccines before McDonald implored her to bring in an expert on their safety.
Matheson later brought in Dr. Toni Lynn Bark, an Evanston, Ill., doctor who said she's practiced in pediatrics, emergency medicine and adversonomics, the study of adverse reactions to vaccines.
McDonald questioned Bark's qualifications and refused to consider her a vaccine expert. McDonald did agree to let her testify about her own practice. McDonald hasn't ruled yet in that case. She scheduled a hearing for next month to hear more testimony.
The two cases highlight the conflict that follows when divorced parents disagree over vaccines that are administered to millions of children every year for illnesses like measles, mumps, chickenpox and other ailments.
Public health professionals overwhelmingly champion vaccines as a prevention tool that has saved millions of lives.
"Vaccines have reduced – and in some cases eliminated – many diseases that killed or severely disabled people in previous generations," Robert Wheaton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told the Free Press earlier this month. "Vaccines are safe, effective and benefit everyone."
A 2011 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine reviewed more than 1,000 research articles on the topic and concluded that "few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines" and that "the evidence shows there are no links between immunization and some serious conditions that have raised concerns, including Type 1 diabetes and autism."
The report acknowledged that "vaccines are not free from side effects, 'or adverse effects,' but most are very rare or very mild."
Michigan law requires children to be vaccinated before they can be admitted to schools or other group settings, but it allows anti vaxxer parents the right to opt out for medical, religious or personal reasons.
Medical objections typically require a doctor's note. Matheson, in her case, raised religious objections, noting some vaccines are cultured in the cells of aborted fetuses.
Dass said in court pleadings that Bredow "believes that the risks to vaccinations outweigh the benefits and, as such, does not wish to vaccinate minor child."
The pleadings also claim that Horne agreed for years to not vaccinate the child until last November, when he changed his mind.
"The rationale behind his change in mindset is unknown," Dass said in the pleadings.
Bredow also is seeking to overturn a part of McDonald's order which changed the custody status of the child. Before she went to jail, Bredow had physical custody of the child, while Horne had visitation rights.
McDonald ordered the custody to be split 50/50. Now, the child stays at Bredow's Ferndale home on Monday through Thursday and with his father on Friday through Sunday.
McDonald hasn't scheduled a hearing yet on Bredow's request.
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