Tag: personal belief exemptions

The History of Vaccine Exemptions

As we are starting to see some states get rid of their exemptions with new vaccine laws, it is important to understand that many non-medical exemptions came on the scene relatively recently.

After vaccine mandates to start school helped eliminate measles in the United States, over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions. Texas and Arkansas added theirs a little later, during the 2003-04 school year.

The History of Vaccine Exemptions

What happened in 1998 that made state lawmakers in 15 states allow parents to use personal belief vaccine exemptions to opt out of vaccinating and protecting their kids?

Andrew Wakefield happened in 1998...
Andrew Wakefield happened in 1998…

Oh yeah, that’s when Andrew Wakefield published his infamous paper in Lancet that was later retracted.

That’s right, these exemptions had their origins in perhaps the biggest anti-vaccine myth of them all!

Not that there weren’t warnings. Many of us knew adding the exemptions was a bad idea at the time…

The Austin American Statesman published an editorial in 2003 urging Legislators to fix the mess they had just created.
The Austin American Statesman published an editorial in 2003 urging Legislators to fix the mess they had just created.

And now, here we are with rising rates of vaccine-preventable disease as folks use and abuse their exemptions.

So while you are thinking about whether or not your state legislators should be taking away your personal belief vaccine exemption, a better question would likely be why they added them in the first place.

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A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Having to get vaccinated to attend school isn’t a new idea.

In 1827, Boston mandated that all children attending public school must receive the smallpox vaccine.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1980-81 school year that there were laws in all 50 states mandating that children receive vaccinations before starting school. The smallpox vaccine wasn’t one of them…

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Not surprisingly, as vaccines did their job and rates of vaccine-preventable diseases dropped, politicians were able to weaken our vaccine laws.

Over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions!

We are now paying the price, with increases of vaccine-preventable diseases among clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children whose parents claim non-medical vaccine exemptions.

And that’s why we are seeing more and more states work to strengthen their vaccine laws.

Legislators who want to combat vaccine exemption abuse should enact laws that make it clear that:

  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence-based medicine – not anecdotes
  • medical exemptions should be reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist, Deputy State Epidemiologist, or other designated professionals at the health department
  • religious exemptions, if included at all, should specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • philosophical exemptions, if included at all, should require some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • most exemptions are temporary
  • a separate exemption application should be required for each vaccine
  • exemption rates should be tracked at the school level and should be posted on school websites

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated!

Become an advocate and help get more kids vaccinated. You can also help stop bad vaccine laws from being enacted in your state, including some that would make it even easier to get an exemption.

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Are Parents Faking Their Child’s Vaccine Records?

In 2015, California passed a vaccine law that removed all non-medical exemptions to getting vaccinated.

What was the response?

More kids got vaccinated.

Are Parents Faking Their Child’s Vaccine Records?

Not all of them though.

Shortly after the passage of SB277 we quickly learned of one way that parents were trying to get around the law – fake vaccine exemptions.

That’s right. Some doctors were selling fake vaccine exemptions using bogus medical symptoms, histories, and conditions.

And apparently, now that fake vaccine exemptions are getting harder to come by, some parents are simply trying to fake their child’s immunization records.

While I doubt a lot of people are faking their records, some probably are.

Some have already been caught forging their child’s vaccine records because their intentionally unvaccinated kids (who were supposed to be vaccinated) were involved in outbreaks!

Are those really your only vaccine choices? What about opting to vaccinate and protect your child?

Some others were caught writing fake vaccine exemptions, using forms from one of the doctor’s who notoriously sells fake medical vaccine exemptions!

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

This is the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Fake Vaccine Records

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