Tag: medical exemptions

When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

Parents likely aren’t going to agree on every single decision about their kids.

This is especially true when parents actually have different parenting styles.

Whether it is about discipline techniques, what time the kids should go to bed, or how much allowance they should get, disagreements are bound to come up at some point if both parents are actively involved in parenting.

What Does Your Significant Other Think About Vaccines?

What happens if you disagree about vaccines?

Do you even know what your SO thinks about vaccines?

  • Does your SO ever talk about a Big Pharma conspiracy?
  • Do they buy into the myths that vaccines are full of toxins or that they don’t even work?
  • Are they afraid that vaccines will damage your baby in some way?
  • Instead of going to the doctor when they are sick, do they instead grab some essential oils and head to their chiropractor, acupuncturist, and a naturopath?

Ideally, like most other parenting issues, you would have had a talk about vaccines way before you started planning a family and you would know what your significant other thinks.

Unfortunately, we often hear about disagreements about vaccines after a couple already has a baby.

In some cases, they not only have kids, but have already split up. Then, in addition to fighting about child support, visitation schedules, and who gets the house, you might have separated or divorced parents trying to convince a judge that only one of them should be allowed to make vaccination decisions.

That could mean that an unvaccinated child gets vaccinated over one parent’s objections or that a child stays unvaccinated, even though the other parent wants him to be vaccinated and protected.

When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

While it is hard to know the best thing to do in this situation, there is one thing that you absolutely shouldn’t do.

Don't get your child secretly vaccinated if your SO is opposed to vaccines.
Don’t get your child secretly vaccinated if your SO is opposed to vaccines.

Don’t vaccinate your child behind the other parent’s back.

Instead, help them understand that vaccines work and are safe and necessary.

What if they still don’t agree?

Ask what exactly they are worried about and make sure to get them answers for those specific concerns. It might also help to have them come to your next appointment and talk to your doctor.

Can you just agree to disagree about vaccines? I guess, as long as the one who didn’t get their way is going to agree to not be upset about it. If that’s the parent who wanted their child vaccinated, then that also means their is child is left at risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease while they try to “hide in the herd.”

Can they just compromise?

While there is no benefit to skipping or delaying any vaccines over being fully vaccinated and protected, it is better than being unvaccinated. Hopefully, learning to compromise and lots of counseling can get you both to where you aren’t in a situation when a judge makes your vaccination decisions for you.

What to Know When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

It is best to know what your partner thinks about vaccines before you start planning on having kids.

More on When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

How Can the Unvaccinated Spread Diseases They Don’t Have?

Folks who are intentionally unvaccinated often have a hard time understanding why the rest of us might be a little leery of being around them.

That’s especially true if we have a new baby in the house, younger kids who aren’t fully vaccinated and protected, or anyone with a chronic medical condition who can’t be vaccinated.

Why? Of course, it is because we don’t want them to catch measles, pertussis, or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

“How can you spread a disease that you don’t even have?”

It’s true, you can’t spread a disease that you don’t have.

But infectious diseases don’t magically appear inside our bodies – we catch them from other people. And if you have skipped or delayed a vaccine, then you have a much higher chance of getting a vaccine-preventable disease than someone who is vaccinated and protected.

So, just avoid other people when you are sick, right?

“…the increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

That works great in theory, but since you are often contagious before you show signs and symptoms and know that you are sick, you can very easily spread a disease that you don’t even know that you have.

An infant hospitalized during a measles outbreak in the Philippines in which 110 people died.
Children with measles are contagious 4 days before through 4 days after their rash appears, but you often don’t recognize that it is measles until they get the rash! Photo by Jim Goodson, M.P.H.

There’s the trouble:

  1. being unvaccinated, you or your child are at higher risk to get sick
  2. when you get sick, you can be contagious several days before you have obvious symptoms
  3. you can spread the disease to others before you ever know that you are sick, or at least before you know that you have a vaccine preventable disease

This makes intentionally unvaccinated folks a risk to those who are too young to be vaccinated, are too young to be fully vaccinated, have a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated, or when their vaccine simply didn’t work.

measles-santa-clara-county
Folks with measles often expose a lot of other people because they don’t yet know that they have measles and aren’t showing signs and symptoms yet.

In fact, this is how most outbreaks start. Tragically, kids too young to be vaccinated get caught up in these outbreaks.

Keep in mind that these parents didn’t have a choice about getting them protected yet. Someone who decided to skip their own vaccines made that choice for them.

And remember that while you can’t spread a disease that you don’t even have, you can certainly spread a disease that you don’t realize that you have.

What to Know About The Unvaccinated Spreading Disease

If you aren’t going to get vaccinated or vaccinate your kids, understand the risks and responsibilities, so that you don’t spread a vaccine-preventable diseases to others that you might not even know that you have yet.

More on the Unvaccinated Spreading Disease

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Have you heard about the idea of vaccine choice?

The “right to choose” is being pushed by anti-vaccine groups in many states because they think that laws mandating kids to have vaccines to go to daycare, school, and college violates their parental rights and civil liberties.

“Their claim that vaccines are 100% safe and effective for all people all of the time is not based in science and is not supported by facts or evidence, making it more of a religious belief than an adequate basis for their mandate argument.”

Texans for Vaccine Choice

And of course, they use a lot of anti-vaccine talking points to try and scare parents into believing them. Vaccines are safe and they work, but no one says that they are 100% safe or that they are 100% effective.

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Right away, you should see another big problem with the vaccine choice movement.

No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated. Everyone has a choice. It’s just that some folks don’t like the consequences that come with that choice of not vaccinating their kids – having to home school their kids instead of going to a public or private school.

So basically, vaccine choice is just the anti-vaccine movement moving the goal posts yet again.

“If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f–king measles.”

Jenny McCarthy

Study after study showed that vaccines are not associated with autism and what did we get, measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.

What’s Missing In the Vaccine Choice Argument?

In addition to facts, one big thing that is missing from the vaccine choice argument is that by pushing the idea that unvaccinated kids should be allowed to skip or delay any or all vaccines without consequences, that takes away the choice for the rest of us who want to keep our kids protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Can’t we just vaccinate our kids?

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

We do!

But that doesn’t take away all of the risk if you don’t vaccinate your kids.

“…the increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

There are kids who are too young to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated, kids who can’t be vaccinated because of true medical vaccine exemptions, and folks whose vaccine didn’t work, after all, vaccines aren’t 100% effective.

The “choice” folks don’t talk about those things though.

Make an informed choice about vaccines before you think about leaving your child unvaccinated and unprotected.

What To Know About Vaccine Choice

Listen to anti-vaccine propaganda, skip or delay vaccines and leave your kids unprotected or do your research and understand that vaccines work and are safe and necessary and get them vaccinated and protected – that’s your vaccine choice.

More on Vaccine Choice

Vaccines and Hemophilia

Kids with hemophilia bleed.

The Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the National Hemophilia Foundation recommends "that patients with bleeding disorders continue to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and CDC’s vaccine recommendation route and schedule for their age."
The Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the National Hemophilia Foundation recommends “that patients with bleeding disorders continue to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and CDC’s vaccine recommendation route and schedule for their age.”

They bleed into their joints, into their skin (hematoma), and from their mouth and gums. They can bleed after surgery and even after getting their vaccinations.

Vaccines and Hemophilia

Having hemophilia is certainly not a contraindication to getting vaccinated though.

“Your child should get regular immunizations with necessary precautions to prevent bleeding from the injection sites.”

Hemophilia FAQs

There are some precautions that are recommended before giving vaccines to a child with hemophilia, including:

  • using a 23-gauge or smaller caliber fine-gauge needle – consider a 25- or 27-gauge needle
  • when possible, giving the vaccine SQ instead of IM – for example, although the IPV (polio), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B vaccines are usually given IM, studies have shown that they can be given SQ to kids with hemophilia
  • applying firm pressure, without rubbing, after the vaccine is given for at least two minutes and up to 5 to 10 minutes
  • giving acetaminophen for pain relief, if necessary, instead of ibuprofen
  • warning about the risk of a hematoma developing at the injection site

Most importantly, if the child with hemophilia is already getting routine prophylaxis to prevent bleeding, schedule their vaccines around the same time to decrease the risk of bleeding.

Your child’s hematologist will likely give you specific instructions to provide to your pediatrician regarding immunization precautions.

What to Know About Vaccines and Hemophilia

Kids with hemophilia should get all of their vaccines on schedule, but precautions should be taken to decrease the chance of bleeding after getting an immunization.

More About Vaccines and Hemophilia

How to Claim a Vaccine Exemption

Don’t want to get your kids vaccinated?

You might be surprised to know that no one is out there trying to force you into vaccinating them.

Want to enroll your kids in daycare, preschool, school, or college?

Then they will need to be vaccinated.

How to Claim a Vaccine Exemption

Of course, depending on where you live, you could get a vaccine exemption and leave your kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Does your child qualify for a medical exemption? All states allow kids to claim medical exemptions to getting vaccinated. True medical exemptions are rare though, as you can see from the rates in states that actually require screening and approval of medical vaccine exemptions.

Are you a Christian Scientist? In 47 states, laws allow religious exemptions to vaccinations. Ironically, these exemptions are often abused, as you don’t actually need to belong to a religion that is against vaccines to claim a religious exemption to vaccinations.

“When you are challenged by the viewpoint of a denomination, pastor, publication, or atheist authority: You do not worship any pastor, church, religious publication, or denomination. Your pastor’s personal view on vaccines is irrelevant to your stance because pastors do not learn about the biblical implications of vaccinating during seminary and your pastor isn’t God. (Though if you have a pastor willing to go to bat for you, use him.)”

Megan on How To Get a Vaccine Religious Exemption Like a Boss

It is not even a secret that parents abuse the religious vaccine exemption, claiming them even when they don’t have a sincere religious belief against getting vaccinated.

And in 20 states, it is even easier to claim a vaccine exemption. These are the states that allow philosophical or personal belief vaccine exemptions, in which you can typically just say that you are against vaccinating and protecting your kids “for reasons of conscience.”

Vaccine exemptions are too easy to get in some states, but even with an exemption, your child will still be excluded if there is an outbreak.
Vaccine exemptions are too easy to get in some states, but even with an exemption, your child will still be excluded if there is an outbreak.

What reasons? You don’t usually have to go into much detail…

Why Parents Abuse Vaccine Exemptions

It is not hard to understand why some parents abuse vaccine exemptions.

They abuse vaccine exemptions because they can.

In many states, it is easy to abuse vaccine exemptions because medical exemptions aren’t verified and approved and it is often easier and more convenient to get an exemption than to get vaccinated. Believe it or not, some doctors will even sell you a medical exemption for your child. Also, parents are made to feel so scared by anti-vaccine propaganda that they think that they need to get an exemption.

“Permitting personal belief exemptions and easily granting exemptions are associated with higher and increasing nonmedical US exemption rates. State policies granting personal belief exemptions and states that easily grant exemptions are associated with increased pertussis incidence.”

Omer et al on Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence.

But just because you can claim an easy exemption in a state without strong vaccine exemption laws doesn’t mean that you should.

While there are no benefits to delaying or skipping vaccines, there are plenty of risks. And the risks aren’t just to your unvaccinated child. We continue to see and hear about kids who are too young to be vaccinated or who couldn’t be vaccinated getting caught up in outbreaks caused by others who simply chose to not get vaccinated.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Not surprisingly, websites and organizations that give advice on getting kids easy vaccine exemptions never mention these risks. They also overstate the risks of vaccines and don’t mention the benefits of getting vaccinated.

Vaccines are safe and necessary. Unless your child has a true medical contraindication to getting one or more vaccines, do a little more research before getting a non-medical exemption.

What to Know About Claiming a Vaccine Exemption

While it is typically not hard to claim a vaccine exemption for your child, since vaccines are safe and necessary, be sure you understand the risks of delaying or skipping any vaccines if your child doesn’t need a true medical exemption.

More on Claiming a Vaccine Exemption

 

Immunization Requirements to Start School and Daycare

If you are following the latest immunization schedule and your kids are up-to-date on all of their vaccines, then they will likely be ready to start daycare, kindergarten, high-school, or college.

There aren’t usually any extra vaccines that they will need to start school.

Of course, if you have skipped or delayed any vaccines, then they might have to catch up on some immunizations before starting school.

Another situation where you might need to do some catching up is if you move, and instead of following the CDC schedule, you were just getting the minimum number of vaccines that were required to attend school where you used to live. For example, your kids could have been all set to start kindergarten in Arkansas, but if you suddenly moved to Texas, they might need a second MMR, a booster dose of Varivax, and two doses of hepatitis A vaccine, as none of those are required in Arkansas.

Immunization Requirements to Start Daycare and Preschool

Daycare rules in Idaho give parents a month to stay on schedule with all of the CDC immunization requirements.
Daycare rules in Idaho give parents a month to stay on schedule with all of the CDC immunization requirements.

Since many new parents have to go back to work when their baby is only about two to six weeks old, they won’t have time to get their first set of vaccines at two months.

That won’t keep them out of daycare, but delaying too much longer, usually more than a month, probably will.

To start daycare or preschool, infants and toddlers need to get most of the vaccines on the CDC immunization schedule. This includes DTaP, hepatitis B, Hib, Prevnar, and IPV (polio), and then once they are 12 months old, booster doses of the primary series of vaccines and the MMR, Varivax (chickenpox), and hepatitis A vaccines.

The only vaccine that is missing from many state mandates is the rotavirus vaccine. And that simply has to do with the strict timing requirements of when you need to start (before 15 weeks of age) and finish this vaccine (by 8 months).

Some states do require rotavirus though, and simply state that kids must follow “age appropriate dosing.” That way, if they are too old, they just don’t need to get it.

Immunization Requirements to Start Kindergarten

In addition to most of the vaccines they needed to start daycare or preschool, to start kindergarten, kids need their 4 to 6 year old boosters:

  • the fifth dose of DTaP to protect them against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
  • the fourth dose of IPV to protect them against polio
  • the second dose of MMR to protect them against measles, mumps, and rubella
  • the second dose of Varivax to protect them against chicken pox

If using combination vaccines, these four immunizations can be combined into just two shots – Proquad (MMR + Varivax) and either Kinrix or Quadracel (DTaP + IPV), which your preschooler will appreciate to help reduce the pain from getting these shots.

If your kids were missing any vaccines, they will also need to get caught up on those before starting school.

Immunization Requirements to Start Middle School

Preteens and teens get a few vaccines when they start middle school when they are around 11 to 12 years old, including:

  • a dose of Tdap to protect them against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
  • a dose of Menactra or Menveo to protect them against meningoccocal disease

Although not required by most schools, the HPV vaccine is also usually given around this time.

Immunization Requirements to Start College

And then, before going off to college, at around age 16 years, kids will usually need:

They can also get the MenB vaccine, although it isn’t yet required for all students. This vaccine (Bexsero or Trumenba) has a “permissive” recommendation, in that parents are told they can get it if they want their kids to avoid meningococcal B disease, but it is not required yet.

What about a third dose of MMR?

While an extra dose of the MMR vaccine is now being given in some situations, it is mainly if your child is at high risk because of a current mumps outbreak. A mumps booster shot is not currently recommended just because your child is going off to college.

What to Know About Immunization Requirements for Incoming Students

If you have been following the latest immunization schedule and your kids are up-to-date on all of their vaccines, then they will likely be ready to start daycare, kindergarten, high-school, and college without needing any extra vaccines.

More on Immunization Requirements for Incoming Students

 

Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

Every state has laws mandating vaccines to attend school and daycare.

Every state also allows exemptions to those mandates, including:

The way that  these laws and exemptions are set up leaves a lot of room for abuse though.

Abuse of Religious Exemptions

How many religions are actually against kids getting vaccinated?

That’s right, almost none.

So why are there so many religious vaccine exemptions in most states, especially in states that don’t have a personal belief exemption?

Right again.

Folks who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, and can’t use a personal belief exemption, just say that vaccinating them would be against their religion.

Abuse of Medical Exemptions

There are some children who shouldn’t be vaccinated.

These children can get a true medical exemption to one or more vaccines because they have a real contraindication or precaution to getting vaccinated.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

Fortunately, these medical reasons to skip or delay vaccines are not very common and are often temporary. They can include the contraindications and precautions listed in the package insert for each vaccine and by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, with the most common medical exemptions being:

  • a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose
  • a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component
  • a known severe immunodeficiency and live vaccines
  • a moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever (precaution)
  • a progressive neurologic disorder (precaution)
A family history of these conditions would not be a reason to skip or delay any vaccines.
Although it will get you a medical exemption for just $120 in California, a family history of these conditions would not be a reason to skip or delay any vaccines.

Most other things are “incorrectly perceived as contraindications to vaccination” and should not be a medical exemptions, including having :

  • a mild acute illness with or without fever
  • a mild to moderate local reaction
  • relatives with allergies
  • a family history of seizures
  • a stable neurologic condition
  • an autoimmune disease
  • a family history of an adverse event after DTP or DTaP administration

A medical exemption can also exist if your child already had the disease and so has natural immunity. In most cases, except for chicken pox disease, titers will likely need to be done to prove that your child already has immunity.

Stopping the Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

We know that vaccine exemptions are being abused.

How do you stop it?

“Permitting personal belief exemptions and easily granting exemptions are associated with higher and increasing nonmedical US exemption rates. State policies granting personal belief exemptions and states that easily grant exemptions are associated with increased pertussis incidence.”

Omer et al on Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence.

You likely have to make it harder to get a vaccine exemption.

Strong exemption laws, which are needed in many states, make it clear that:

  • many exemptions are temporary
  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence based medicine – not anecdotes
  • religious exemptions specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • a separate exemption application will be needed for each vaccine

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated! And it should include some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids.

“Because rare medically recognized contraindications for specific individuals to receive specific vaccines exist, legitimate medical exemptions to immunization requirements are important to observe. However, nonmedical exemptions to immunization requirements are problematic because of medical, public health, and ethical reasons and create unnecessary risk to both individual people and communities.”

AAP on Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance

You could also get rid of nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Of course, for that to work, you can’t allow just anything to count as a medical exemption.

“Review of all medical exemption requests will be conducted at the Mississippi State Department of Health by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist.”

Mississippi Medical Exemption Policy

In Mississippi, for example, where medical exemptions are reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist, there were just 208 medical exemptions in the whole state during the 2016-17 school year.

In some states, rates of medical exemptions might be six or seven times higher. This is mostly seen in states that don’t allow personal belief exemptions and make it difficult to get a religious exemption.

That seems to be the case in Nebraska, where there are no personal belief exemptions and you have to submit a notarized statement to get a religious exemptions. Their high rates of medical exemptions likely reflect some abuse and the fact that medical exemptions aren’t reviewed or approved by anyone, they just reflect “that, in the health care provider’s opinion, the specified immunization(s) required would be injurious to the health and well – being of the student or any member of the student’s family or household.”

As we are seeing, that simply invites vaccine exemption abuse.

Very few states currently require that exemption applications go to the health department for review. Those that do include Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

California is notably absent. I guess they didn’t see the potential for abuse when they passed their latest vaccine law. I mean, who could have guessed that doctors would actually be selling medical exemptions to parents based on unrelated conditions, like a family history of diabetes, celiac disease, or autism?

The non-medical vaccine exemption form in Colorado includes information on the risks of each vaccine-preventable disease.
The non-medical vaccine exemption form in Colorado includes information on the risks of each vaccine-preventable disease.

At the very least, until we have stronger exemption laws, parents who want to get a nonmedical exemption should acknowledge that they understand the risks they are taking when they skip or delay their child’s vaccines.

What to Know About Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

While medical exemptions are necessary for kids who have true contraindications to getting vaccinated, stronger laws can help decrease the abuse we see in medical, religious, and personal belief vaccine exemptions.

More Information on Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions