States Should Eliminate Personal and Religious Exemptions to Required School Vaccinations
PRO (3 arguments)
BACKGROUND: Senate Bill 277 requires almost all California children who attend private or public schools to be fully vaccinated regardless of their parents’ personal or religious beliefs. Unvaccinated children can attend schools ONLY if they obtain a medical exemption from a doctor. This law took effect in August. There are some lawsuits in the California courts right now to try and overturn this new law, claiming it is unConstitutional.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. A physician has broad authority to grant medical exemptions to children, especially if they believe the child will be physically harmed by vaccines. Children whose older siblings or other relatives have had bad reactions to vaccines also could seek a medical exemption under the law.
California joins two other states — Mississippi and West Virginia — that do not allow parents to opt out of vaccinations for school-aged children based on their personal or religious beliefs.
School--All public schools, grades k-12
Weighing Mechanism - The weighing mechanism for this debate is whichever side gives the greatest benefits to our entire society.
When a student is not vaccinated, not only does this increase the risk of them contracting a disease, but it also means that they can easily cause public outbreaks.
Look at what happened in California that triggered the recent legislation to eliminate religious exemptions from vaccinations: a measles outbreak — which began at Disneyland in December 2014 and eventually affected 159 people in the U.S. The California bill’s co-authors, Sen. Richard Pan and Sen. Ben Allen, said California’s lenient vaccine rules were the problem. Pan, a practicing pediatrician, already was alarmed by historically high numbers of whooping cough cases and related deaths since 2010. He looked to the marked rise of personal belief exemptions filed by California parents as a reason for the outbreaks. In 2002, he and others noted, fewer than 0.77 percent of California kindergartners had vaccination exemptions. But by the 2013-2014 school year, the rate had more than tripled to 3.15 percent. “Every year, you have a slightly larger number of kids entering schools without vaccines,” said Pan. “And they just stay unvaccinated, building up the pool of unvaccinated people.”
Eventually there’s a tipping point, he said, and eventually “what you see happening is that someone in the community gets exposed to a disease, and it spreads throughout the community. And there are not enough vaccinated people to keep it contained.”
San Jose Mercury News
The more people who are vaccinated, the less people who are vulnerable to getting and spreading a disease.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most childhood vaccines are 90-99% effective in preventing disease. And according to researchers at the Pediatric Academic Society, childhood vaccinations in the US prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year. Evidence of the success of vaccination programs is easy to find: Smallpox, which had killed two million people per year until the late 1960s, was wiped out by 1979 after a massive worldwide immunization campaign. The number of polio cases fell from over 300,000 per year in the 1980s to just 2,000 in 2002. Two-thirds of developing countries have eradicated neonatal tetanus. Since the launch of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Program on Immunization in 1974, the number of reported measles deaths has dropped from 6 million to less than 1 million per year. Whooping cough cases have fallen from 3 million per year to less than a quarter of a million. Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children who exempted from vaccination requirements were more than 35 times more likely to contract measles and nearly 6 times more likely to contract pertussis, compared to vaccinated children. This research also showed that communities with lower rates of immunization had higher rates of infection among vaccinated children than those with higher vaccination rates. Similar correlations between exemption rates and incidence of vaccine-preventable disease has been found in both the United Kingdom and Japan. In Boulder, Colorado, fear over possible side effects of the whooping cough vaccine led many parents to refuse vaccination for their children, causing Boulder to have the lowest school-wide vaccination rate in Colorado for whooping cough and one of the highest rates of whooping cough in the US as of 2002.
American Academy of Pediatrics, The Value of Vaccination by David E. Bloom
The cost of treating diseases that vaccines can prevent are unnecessary health care costs that burden our health care system. Commonly-used vaccines are a cost-effective and preventive way of promoting health, compared to the treatment of acute or chronic disease.
In the U.S. during the year 2001, routine childhood immunizations against seven diseases were estimated to save over $40 billion per age group in overall social costs including $10 billion in direct health costs. According to an extensive cost-benefit analysis by the CDC, every dollar spent on immunization saves $6.30 in direct medical costs. The CDC estimated that overall since the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program was implemented in 1994, vaccination rates have soared to near or above 90 percent, and routine immunization has prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations, saving nearly $295 billion in direct costs (which include the costs of treating an infection) and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs (which include things like lost productivity due to disability and early death), according to the report.
Center for Disease Control
CON (3 arguments)
Weighing Mechanism: Whatever doesn’t violate our Constitutional rights as US citizens.
Forcing such parents to vaccinate their children would violate the 1st Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to the free exercise of their religion. Some parents religions do not permit vaccination and freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution. States have the obligation to respect individual freedom, and governments should not have the right to intervene in the health decisions parents make for their children.
Several legal cases involving the constitutionality of religious exemptions to vaccination have been tried. Courts have often found that requiring parents belong to certain religious groups to qualify for religious exemptions violates the First Amendment and the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. The argument is that the Equal Protection clause should protect all people who claim a religious objection to vaccination, not only those who belong to a certain religion with recognized objections. Additionally, we are not talking about taking the Constitutional rights of just a few people - in California alone, the elimination of personal and religious exemptions affects the 80,000 students who claim personal belief exemptions for vaccines annually. Not only does this violate the parents’ freedom of religion under Article 1 of the US Constitution, but preventing children from attending school because they are not vaccinated is a violation of California’s State Constitution, which provides for a child’s right to an education.
US Constitution, state Constitutions and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
There are sometimes very serious and unforeseeable complications from a child receiving a vaccine, and a parent should have the right to protect their child from these risks.
Robert Fletcher was given the MMR vaccine as a child, and his mother stated, “The seizure occurred ten days after the vaccination. Robert is severely disabled as a result of vaccination. Robert is nearly 19 but mentally he is like a 14-month-old toddler. He can’t stand unaided. He is prone to various illnesses and last week suffered around 40 severe epileptic seizures.” Robert was suffering from an adverse reaction to the MMR vaccine. Also, some diseases we vaccinate against are so rare, yet the vaccines still carry the risk of serious side effects. For example, Hepatitis B does not even affect children (less than 1% of all reported victims are under the age of 15), yet it carries some risk of adverse effects up to and including death. For less dangerous diseases such as measles and chickenpox, natural immunity is preferable because it is 100% effective. Vaccines contain known toxins and carcinogens such as aluminum and thimerosal. Varicella side effects are similar to the disease; naturally acquired disease provides lifetime immunity, whereas vaccination requires boosters. Consequently, vaccinations should not be mandatory. The government shouldn’t force individuals to take risks with their own health against their wishes.
The London Daily Telegraph newspaper
As the Liberty Counsel points out, the federal government actually pays families where vaccines have killed or disabled children nearly $100 million dollars each year and has done so since 1986, through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 3,000 compensation payments have been made, close to $3 billion has been disbursed to petitioners and $91 million paid to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs. To date, 9,500 claims have been dismissed. Of those, 3,600 claimants were paid $50 million to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs. Aside from the human tragedy caused by side effects of mandatory vaccination programs, this is a tremendous loss of money to our nation’s budget that could be better spent benefitting society with improved healthcare, infrastructure and education.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration