Vaccine Exemptions Leave Pennsylvania Children Vulnerable
- Vaccines help prevent countless deaths by eradicating deadly diseases. The immunizations children receive, especially those for measles, pertussis, and mumps, help prevent them from catching life threatening diseases. A concerted vaccination campaign can lead to the elimination of certain deadly diseases, such as smallpox, if momentum is maintained at home and abroad.
- Religious and personal belief exemptions are surging. Currently in Pennsylvania, religious and personal belief exemptions from vaccines vastly outnumber medical exemptions. Numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health show that in kindergarteners, there are nearly 510 medical exemptions compared to 2,552 nonmedical exemptions, 1,133 of which are religious exemptions and 1,149 which are personal belief exemptions.
- Lower vaccination rates lead to more children and vulnerable populations getting sick with preventable diseases. Children with medical exemptions or who are too young to receive vaccines depend on their vaccinated peers and communities to keep them from catching these potentially fatal illnesses. When children are opted out of vaccines for nonmedical reasons, they put those who can’t receive them at risk for severe illness and possibly death. Pregnant women who catch measles can also be at risk for miscarriages since their immunity is lowered.
The State Has an Obligation to Public Health
- The state has a duty and compelling interest to ensure a healthy population. It is the state’s primary responsibility to enact laws related to ensure public well-being, safety, and order. This includes a commitment to public health through regulating food and medicine, licensing medical professionals, and working to eradicate deadly diseases through education and mandatory vaccination. Maintaining public health standards is necessary to ensure a prosperous society.
- Mandating vaccinations passes the rational basis test articulated by the Supreme Court. Mandatory vaccination laws do not single out one particular group, instead focusing on making sure that everybody who can be vaccinated is vaccinated to protect those whose immune systems are weak or compromised. A federal judge in New York City recently ruled “that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
- The more people who get sick, the higher the burden is on the rest of the populace. When a child becomes sick, it not only disrupts their education but also the education of any unvaccinated classmates who are forced to stay home by the school district. It impacts parents, who need to stay home from work to supervise their children or find somebody who can take care of them. The Centers for Disease Control, looking at the data from 2011 when only 107 were infected with measles, estimated that the outbreak cost taxpayers up to $5.3 million dollars. With the current measles outbreak nearly reaching that number in Pennsylvania, taxpayers can expect to pay at least that much if not more before the outbreak ends.
Religious Exemptions Must Be Removed Too
- Leaving the religious exemption privilege’s one religious group over another. Very few religious groups object to vaccinations on religious grounds. Leaving religious exemptions intact could lead to parents attempting to gain exemptions by claiming a religious belief. This would leave the state in the uncomfortable position of having to judge which religious beliefs are sincerely held and which are not. The best way to ensure fairness across the board is to eliminate all nonmedical exemptions.
- Two states currently have no religious or personal belief exemptions for vaccines. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only two states without any vaccine exemptions for religious or personal beliefs. An attempt to add religious exemptions to Mississippi’s statute failed, highlighting how important protecting the public health is.
- A child’s health and well being takes precedent over a parent’s beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the right to practice one’s faith does not extend to the point where children’s health and safety are jeopardized. The Court ruled in Prince v. Massachusetts that parents’ religious beliefs do not give them a constitutional right to engage in practices that compromise a child’s health or safety.
Contact your state representative right away and let them know that you are against religious vaccine exemptions!