Anita S. Henderson, MD, discusses court ruling on religious vaccine exemptions

Anita S. Henderson, MD, a pediatrician at Hattiesburg Clinic The Pediatric Clinic, spoke with the Mississippi Free Press regarding the recent court ruling that allows religious exemptions for childhood vaccines.

On April 18, 2023, a federal judge ruled that Mississippi must allow religious exemptions for vaccine requirements in children. This will allow children to attend school regardless of their vaccination status. Prior to this ruling, Mississippi was one of only six states that did not permit exemptions based on religious reasons.

Mississippi currently has the highest childhood vaccination rate in the nation, a statistic Dr. Henderson is worried will be affected by the new ruling.

“We have the highest kindergarten vaccination rate in the nation—almost 99% of kindergartners are fully vaccinated when they enter school—and because of our high kindergarten vaccination rate, we have very low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Henderson said.

Henderson is worried those preventable diseases, such as measles and polio, will now begin to resurface in Mississippi.

“Those diseases are prevalent in other parts of the world and other parts of the country. We’re concerned we’re going to see a resurgence here in Mississippi now,” she said.

Henderson is also concerned for the health of immunocompromised children.

“It is going to be burdensome to our children who have chronic medical conditions who cannot be vaccinated,” she said. “Those children are now going to be exposed to a variety of diseases.”

For more on the court ruling, click here to read the full article.