A Michigan mother said she's had a "rough few days" after serving nearly a week in jail for defying a court order to have her 9-year-old son vaccinated - and then learning that he received several immunisations after she was locked up behind bars.
Rebecca Bredow, from the Detroit area, was sentenced last week for contempt of court nearly a year after an Oakland County judge ordered her to have her son vaccinated.
"It was the worst five days of my life pretty much," the 40-year-old mother told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday about her time in jail, "except for the fact that I just found out that he was vaccinated and I'm not going to get him back today.
"It's been a rough few days to say the least," she said.
Bredow's ex-husband, James Horne, who shares joint custody of their son, wanted the boy to be vaccinated, but Bredow had refused to do it on religious grounds.
"I can't give in against my own religious belief," she told The Washington Post last month, adding she is not against vaccination. "This is about choice. This is about having my choices as a mother to be able to make medical choices for my child."
Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald told Bredow last week that she is not the only parent who deserves a say in their son's care.
The judge granted Horne temporary custody of their son and ordered him to be vaccinated - and then sentenced Bredow on Oct. 4 to serve seven days in county jail. The Oakland County Jail gives inmates a one-day credit after successfully serving five days behind bars, so Bredow was released about midnight on Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press.
According to court testimony, Horne abided by the order and had the boy vaccinated Monday.
Attorneys for each parent could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.
Parents who either delay or refuse vaccinations for their children do so for a number of reasons, including religious, personal and philosophical beliefs, safety concerns, and a desire for more information from health-care providers, according to 2016 research published in the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
The American Medical Association has long decried allowing parents to decline vaccination for non medical reasons and has cited vaccines' ability to prevent diseases such as measles, mumps and other infectious diseases. Still, a majority of states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations. Nearly 20, including Michigan, provide exemption for religious and personal reasons. Only three, California, Mississippi and West Virginia, don't allow non medical exemptions.
In Michigan, parents or guardians of children enrolled in public and private schools are required to attend an educational session in which they learn about diseases that vaccines can prevent, before they're given waivers for non medical purposes.
Bredow said that's what she had done. She added that she and Horne had initially agreed to delay their son's vaccines for three months after he was born in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, she said they both agreed to suspend all immunisations, and their son has not had a vaccine shot since.
Bredow's version of Horne's agreement could not be independently confirmed. Attempts to reach his attorney Thursday morning were unsuccessful.
The legal dispute also comes amid a growing anti-vaccine sentiment, which began in 1998, when a medical journal published a now-discredited study linking vaccination with autism. The once-fringe movement has become more popular and received a nod of approval from Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested a link between vaccination and autism before he ran for president.
In January, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said President-elect Trump had asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines. A spokeswoman later said that Trump was exploring the possibility of creating a commission on autism. The plan appears to have stalled. Kennedy told STAT News last month that he has had no discussions with White House officials about the commission since February.
Several people who support Bredow gathered outside the Oakland County courthouse Wednesday, holding signs saying they "Stand with Rebecca" and "No Forced Shots."
Bredow's attorney, Steven Vitale, told reporters Wednesday that the case is about more than vaccinations.
He told the Detroit Free Press that Bredow has been the child's primary custodian but on Wednesday, the judge in the case approved a recommendation to have the mother and father split custody 50/50.
"She's devastated," Vitale said of his client, according to the newspaper.
Still, Bredow said, she does not regret her decision about vaccinations.
Bredow told the Detroit Free Press that her time in jail was "horrific," but "I still stand by my choices because I stand up for what I believe in."