Tag: religion

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


The Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

It shouldn’t be surprising that talk of morality comes up around the issue of vaccines from time to time.

“Scientists and clinicians confront moral and ethical choices daily and often observe a religious faith that helps guide their own personal conduct. Indeed, the religious beliefs of countless historical and contemporary researchers and clinicians have been a source of motivation to help relieve human suffering by means of immunization.”

Grabenstein on What the World’s religions teach, applied to vaccines and immune globulins

It is most often because some vaccines do have a “distant historical association with abortion.”

Even then, the National Catholic Bioethics Center states that:

One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

That seems pretty easy to interpret.

They are saying we are both “morally free” to use these vaccines and that we “have a moral obligation” to get vaccinated.

What about those parents who feel like they shouldn’t have to vaccinate their kids, exposing them to the risks of vaccines, simply to “protect the herd?”

“Putting aside arguments about social good, herd immunity, discouraging free loading and preventing harm to others, vaccinating a child for the child’s sake is not just the right thing to do, but also the only thing to do.”

Ogbogu on Vaccines and the Ethics of Parental Choice

They should understand that:

  • they aren’t vaccinating their kids just to protect levels of herd immunity in the community – they are also providing their own kids with individual levels of immunity and protection, so it is not just about preventing harm to others
  • vaccines are safe, so the risks of getting vaccinated are very low
  • by intentionally not vaccinating their own kids, they are free-riding and benefiting from the fact that most of the rest of us do get vaccinated and do vaccinate our kids

And they should understand that there is no ethical way to defend intentionally skipping or delaying their child’s vaccines, which puts kids who can’t be vaccinated at risk.

“The society of the 21st century, just as many societies and cultures in the history of human civilization, use religion as an excuse for wars, discrimination, and now for vaccination refusal.”

Pelčić on Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination

Although a few folks haven’t gotten the message, and may even lie to get a fake religious vaccine exemption, most others see it the same way.

“Giving children a healthy start in life, no matter where they are born or the circumstances of their birth, is the moral obligation of every one of us. It is heartbreaking to think that three million children die each year from diseases that we can prevent.”

Nelson Mandela (2002 Vaccine Conference)

Most parents vaccinate their kids because they understand that vaccines are safe, vaccines work, and vaccines are necessary, just as they likely also understand that there is a moral obligation to vaccinate.

“The argument relating to public goods can be added to the harm-to-others arguments. Where a public good, such as herd protection, exists we must take care not to damage it. The need to create and maintain such a good provides an additional reason, should one be needed, to argue in favour of a moral obligation for the traveller to be vaccinated in advance for infectious disease.”

Dawson on What are the moral obligations of the traveller in relation to vaccination?

And if there is a moral obligation to get vaccinated, then what does that say about those who push propaganda that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

“The anti-vaccine argument is wrong in both the scientific and moral sense.”

Sarah Kurchak on Here’s How the Anti-Vaccination Movement Hurts Autistic People

Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Health Commissioner, is the latest to call out those in anti-vaccination movements, who he says have the “moral responsibility” for the death of unvaccinated children.

“I would like to draw attention to the fact that all these movements, which use different arguments, do not understand what they are doing. It would be a shame if the families belonging to this movement were to bury their children, as happened this year in the Member States where children have died of measles.

I would like to invite those who are against the vaccines to visit families, to visit the tombs of the children of those families, and to think what they are doing. I would like to invite all these anti-aging movements to visit the European cemeteries of the nineteenth century, of the eighteenth century, beginning of the twentieth century: they will find many tombs of small children, because there were no vaccines.”

Vytenis Andriukaitis, MD (translated from Italian)

Dr. William Osler's vaccine challenge in his 1911 essay Man's Redemption of Man.
Dr. William Osler’s vaccine challenge in his 1911 essay Man’s Redemption of Man.

This brings to mind another challenge that was made to anti-vaccine activists just over one hundred years ago by Dr. William Osler in his essay Man’s Redemption of Man.

Dr. Osler jokingly proposed a small vaccinated vs unvaccinated study and challenged ten unvaccinated people, including “three anti-vaccination doctors, if they could be found,” to join him in the “next severe epidemic.”

Tragically, Dr. Osler wouldn’t have a hard time finding three anti-vaccination doctors today.

He would have an easy time recognizing their arguments, as they really haven’t changed over the past 100 years.

Neither is the fact that kids are still dying of diseases that are now vaccine-preventable.

What to Know About the Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Many people believe that we have a moral responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, and those around us from vaccine-preventable diseases by getting vaccinated and it is immoral to push misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More on the Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

10 Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the
The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the “lawfulness” of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.

Parents often have their reasons for why their kids aren’t vaccinated.

But whether they have a medical exemption, personal belief exemption, or a religious exemption to getting vaccines, they often have the same reasons for not believing in vaccines.

What are some of them?

They might be scared of toxins.

They might think that vaccines don’t work.

They might think that vaccines aren’t necessary anymore and that they can just hide in the herd.

They are just trying to fit in at a Waldorf school

10 Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

In addition to simply being scared about things they have heard on the Internet, some of the reasons that parents don’t vaccinate their kids include that:

  1. they are vegan – many vegans vaccinate their kids
  2. they are Catholic – most Catholics vaccinate their kids – Pope Francis even led an oral polio vaccination drive recently
  3. their child is on antibiotics – having a mild illness is not usually a good reason to skip or delay getting vaccines
  4. their child had an allergic reaction to a vaccine – a severe, anaphylactic reaction to one vaccine or vaccine ingredient wouldn’t mean that your child couldn’t or shouldn’t get all or most of the others
  5. they are Jewish – most Jews vaccinate their kids
  6. a doctor wrote them a medical exemption – there are actually very few true contraindications to getting vaccinated and a permanent exemption to all vaccines would be extremely rare, which casts doubt on the ever growing rate of medical exemptions in many areas
  7. they are Muslim – most Muslims vaccinate their kids and most Islamic countries have very good immunization rates.
  8. someone at home is immunocompromised – since we stopped giving the oral polio vaccine, shedding from vaccines is not a big concern and contacts of those who are immunocompromised are usually encouraged to get vaccinated
  9. they are Buddhist – most Buddhists vaccinate their kids – the Dalai Lama even led an oral polio vaccination drive recently and Buddhist countries have very good immunization rates.
  10. someone in their family had a vaccine reaction – a family history of a vaccine reaction is not a good reason to skip or delay getting vaccinated, as it has not been shown to increase your own child’s risk of a reaction. And yes, this has even been shown for siblings of autistic children, which makes sense, since vaccines don’t cause autism.

What about other religions?

Whether you are Hindu, non-Catholic Christians, Amish, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., remember that all major religions believe in vaccines. Of course, the Amish are a little more selective of when and which vaccines they will get, but as we saw in the Ohio measles outbreak, they do get vaccinated.

On the other hand, Christian Scientists don’t vaccinate, along with some small Christian churches that believe in faith healing and avoid modern medical care.

Still, most people understand why it is important to vaccinate their kids.

What to Know About These Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

What do you think about these reasons to not vaccinate your kids? Since they aren’t really absolute reasons to not get vaccinated, are you ready to get your kids vaccinated now?

More About Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

50 Ways to Get Educated About Vaccines

A Board of Health quarantine poster warning that the premises are contaminated by smallpox.
Have you ever seen a quarantine sign for smallpox on someone’s home? That’s because Vaccines Work!

Have questions about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases?

Still on the fence?

Or do you think you have done enough research already?

If that research has you asking for package inserts and requesting low aluminum vaccines, then you might need to rethink how you have been doing your research.

Get Educated About Vaccines

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

They aren’t full of toxins.

They have been tested together.

Pediatricians do know a lot about vaccines. What they may not know is how to counter every anti-vaccine argument that you might have heard of, read about, or with which one of your family members is scaring you.

“Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

You can rest assured that these arguments have all been debunked, often many years ago, but they keep coming up, over and over again. In fact, today’s anti-vaccine movement uses many of the same themes as folks used when the first vaccines were introduced over one hundred years ago.

50 Ways To Get Educated About Vaccines

So before deciding to skip or delay any of your child’s vaccines, do some real research about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases and:

  1. Understand the Pseudoscience Behind the Anti-Vaccine Movement
  2. Review the contraindications to vaccines and even more common, the things commonly misperceived as contraindications
  3. Examine the evidence for the safety of vaccines
  4. Get answers to the 9 Questions For The Pro-Vaxers
  5. Know that Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism
  6. Read about these Five Things I’ve Learned About Vaccines Through 21 Years of Parenting
  7. Learn the Tactics and Tropes of the Anti-vaccine Movement
  8. Know that kids do not get too many vaccines too soon and that vaccines don’t overwhelm your child’s immune system
  9. Understand these Vaccine Safety Basics
  10. Don’t listen to these anti-vaccine celebrities
  11. Get the details of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud
  12. Study why those Graphs That Show Vaccines Don’t Work are just propaganda
  13. Know that you can’t hide your kids in the herd to avoid disease
  14. Read why “Spacing Out” Vaccines Doesn’t Make Them Safer
  15. Wonder why parents misuse religious exemptions to excuse kids from vaccines
  16. See the evidence that Flu Shots Work for Kids Under Two
  17. Review these questions and answers on immunization and vaccine safety
  18. Learn Why My Child With Autism Is Fully Vaccinated
  19. Know that You Can Be the Pro-Life Parent of a Fully Vaccinated Child
  20. See how Having a baby doesn’t change the facts on vaccines
  21. Question Vaccine Injury Stories: the Sacred Cows of the Internet
  22. Read An Open Letter to Expecting Parents and Parents Yet-To-Be about Vaccinating
  23. Know that there is No Clear Evidence that Vaccines Cause Autism
  24. Learn from those who have Left the Anti-Vaccine Movement
  25. Understand why you’re wrong if you think the flu vax gives you the flu
  26. Avoid Cashing In On Fear: The Danger of Dr. Sears
  27. Realize that Almost All Religions Support Immunizations
  28. Learn which vaccines are the most important to get
  29. See that Unvaccinated Children Can Have Autism Too
  30. View Personal Stories of Families Affected by Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
  31. Know who is at risk if you don’t vaccinate your kids
  32. Read about the most common Misconceptions about Vaccines
  33. Review the Benefits vs. Risks of getting vaccinated
  34. Learn about the Ingredients in Vaccines
  35. Realize that vaccines are carefully monitored for safety, even after they have been approved, and it isn’t just by folks reporting side effects to VAERS
  36. Know that those 124 Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link Really Don’t
  37. Understand what Vaccine Package Inserts really do and don’t tell you
  38. See why the CDC Whistleblower really has no whistle to blow
  39. Know that the Vaccine Court did not say that vaccines cause autism
  40. What to consider if Deciding whether to alter the immunization schedule
  41. Learn why Shedding from Vaccines isn’t a danger to your kids
  42. Review even more Misconceptions about Immunizations
  43. Understand The Science Behind Vaccine Research and Testing
  44. Know that your Unvaccinated Child isn’t going to be Healthier than Vaccinated Kids
  45. Realize just how important the HPV vaccine really is
  46. Learn How to Respond to Inaccurate Posts about Vaccines on Social Media
  47. Know that vaccines are studied in pregnant women
  48. See the real dangers in following Jenny McCarthy’s advice
  49. Know that VAERS reports are often misused and understand that parents can report suspected adverse events to VAERS themselves
  50. Fill out a screening questionnaire for contraindications to vaccines

Still have questions? Read one or more of these Vaccine Books

And talk to your doctor about your concerns about vaccines.

Get Educated. Get Vaccinated.

More Ways To Get Educated About Vaccines

These websites and blogs will also help you get educated about vaccines and research any addition questions you might have:


Obstetric Tetanus Is Still a Thing in the United States

Yes, even though we have had a tetanus vaccine for over 80 years, obstetric tetanus is still a thing in the United States.

Obstetric Tetanus in Kentucky

According to a report from the CDC, in July 2016, an unvaccinated Amish woman in Kentucky developed “facial numbness and neck pain, which progressed over 24 hours to stiff neck and jaw and difficulty swallowing and breathing” about nine days after “she delivered a child at home, assisted by an unlicensed community childbirth assistant.”

She  was hospitalized for a month, during which time she had seizures and was on a mechanical ventilator to help her breath for a “prolonged” amount of time.

Fortunately, her baby didn’t also develop tetanus, even though the family refused a recommended dose of tetanus immunoglobulin that could prevent neonatal tetanus from developing.

Surprisingly, after this incident, only 12% of community members agreed to be vaccinated with a tetanus vaccine. One pregnant woman even refused to get vaccinated. This is even less than the response to the Ohio measles outbreak in 2014, when up to 28% of unvaccinated Amish members got vaccinated with an MMR vaccine.

Neonatal Tetanus

An 8-day old baby with neonatal tetanus born to an unvaccinated mother.
An 8-day old baby with neonatal tetanus born to an unvaccinated mother. (CC BY 3.0)

In addition to obstetric tetanus, getting tetanus during or right after a pregnancy, neonatal tetanus is a big concern for unvaccinated mothers. Just like if their mothers don’t get a flu or pertussis containing vaccine, without a tetanus vaccine, newborn babies don’t get any passive immunity and protection against tetanus.

In 2015, 34,019 newborns died from neonatal tetanus worldwide. Amazingly, that is down from 787,000 newborns in 1988 “through immunization of children, mothers, other women of reproductive age (WRA) and promotion of more hygienic deliveries and cord care practices.”

It is not all about hygiene though. Tetanus spores are everywhere. For example, in the Kentucky case, the CDC found no evidence of “birth trauma, unsterile conditions, or other complications.”

In Montana, the baby of an unvaccinated mother developed tetanus that was linked to a non-sterile clay that was given to them by a midwife for home umbilical cord care.

Fortunately, these kinds of cases are rare. There have probably been less than 40 cases of neonatal tetanus since the early 1970s, and only two since 1989, but they should still be a reminder of what could happen if we stop getting vaccinated.

Risky Umbilical Cord Practices

Adding to the risk of getting tetanus, the same moms who aren’t getting vaccinated and protected may be following unsafe umbilical cord care practices.

“…tetanus in neonates can result from umbilical cord colonization, particularly in countries with limited resources. This infection results from contamination of the umbilical separation site by Clostridium tetani acquired from a nonsterile device used to separate the umbilical cord during the peripartum period or from application of unhygienic substances to the cord stump.”

AAP – Umbilical Cord Care in the Newborn Infant – 2016

In countries that are still combating neonatal tetanus, we hear of mothers in rural areas  putting herbs, herbal pastes, chalk, powders, clay, oils, and even butter on their baby’s umbilical cord.

These natural substances are certainly not safer than more standard care, as they can be contaminated with something else that is natural – tetanus spores.

What natural things, and risky, things can you see recommended for umbilical cord care in developed countries? How about honey, goldenseal powder, Frankincense and myrrh oil, and Aztec Healing Clay?

You don’t feed honey to infants because of the risk of botulism spores, but you are supposed to put it directly on their umbilical stump?

Some midwifes even recommend ground rosemary or other dried herbs that you are actually supposed to sprinkle directly on your baby’s umbilical stump. The use of dried herbs is especially problematic. It is well known that these products are not sterile.

“Spore forming bacteria (B. cereus, C. perfringens) that are capable of causing foodborne disease when ingested in large numbers are frequently found in spices and herbs, but usually at low levels.”

Food Microbiology. Volume 26, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 39–43

If dried herbs are also contaminated with tetanus spores (C. tetani), and you place them on an umbilical cord stump of a child whose mother wasn’t vaccinated against tetanus, then you unnecessarily increase the risk for neonatal tetanus.

Not that you would ever hear about this risk from anyone who pushes these practices or tells these moms to avoid getting vaccinated. What happened to informed consent?

And what happens as Andrew Wakefield‘s kids continue to grow up, move beyond getting measles, and begin to have kids? If they still aren’t vaccinated, they and their babies will be at risk for diseases that we thought we had gotten well controlled, like obstetric tetanus, neonatal tetanus, and congenital rubella syndrome.


Faith Tabernacle Congregation church

The Faith Tabernacle Congregation church and their church run school were part of a large measles outbreak in Philadelphia, in which the church saw 486 cases of measles and 6 deaths among their members.

And this wasn’t in the 1940s or 50s, before we had a measles vaccine.

This happened in 1991.

There were other measles cases and deaths in the city and nationwide that year. In fact, between 1989 to 1991, there were 55,622 cases and 123 deaths in the United States, a big increase that was blamed on falling immunization rates.

What was different about the Faith Tabernacle Congregation church outbreak was that all of the children were unvaccinated and, as a faith-healing church, they refused medical care even once they got measles.

Health officials eventually had to get a court order to force the parents in the congregation to vaccinate their children.

Ultimately, only nine children from church got vaccinated though.

For More Information On The Faith Tabernacle Congregation:

Aborted Fetal Tissue

Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue.

Some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies in the 1960s. That certainly does not mean that any vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue or fetal parts though.

The original cells aren’t even involved in making these vaccines. The cells used today have been copied, over and over again. And even then, they are removed before the final vaccine is produced.

For more information: