Tag: religious exemptions

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that vaccines aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

It’s the same reason antibiotics, airplanes, and pasteurization aren’t mentioned – they weren’t invented yet.

Remember, Edward Jenner first vaccinated James Phipps with his smallpox vaccine in 1796.

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

But even before the smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, we had variolation. While we have evidence of smallpox infections as early as the 2nd millennium BC, the earliest use of variolation is from the 10th to 18th Century, well after the Bible was written.

Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?
Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?

Still, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some anti-vaccine folks use the Bible and religion against vaccines.

“I just decided to just google what the bible says about vaccines. There’s nothing in the bible that talks about vaccines. I just want you to think about that. So if God knew in the future that he was going to create these amazing things that were going to be the best scientific advancements, like oh, my God, they’re so great, why isn’t there anything, any inkling of talk about these things called vaccinations coming into being later to save people? If that was really God’s plan and they’re so amazing, then why isn’t it in there at all? Maybe there’s a chapter where they talk about something like an injection, like this health injection, right? Like, why didn’t God talk about that if he knew that it was going to come and save the world?”

Brittney Kara

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that they do it to try and sell you stuff, like Brittney Kara’s “Awakening Reset Program.”

Or Isagenix products.

Wait, is Isagenix mentioned in the Bible?

“You can be confident that Isagenix is committed to your success by offering you the opportunity to live a healthy, clean, and lean lifestyle—and to create wealth while doing so.”

Are multi-level marketing companies?

Brittney Kara is not the first anti-vaccine person to say that God does not support vaccines and she likely won’t be the last.

“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

She may be the first to say that “believing in vaccines is a mental disorder.”

Not sure where she gets that…

Still, despite the availability of religious exemptions to vaccines in most states, it is important to understand that no mainstream religions oppose vaccines.

“For its part, Catholic social teaching entails a duty to vaccinate in order to protect the vulnerable.”

Paul J. Carson on Catholic Social Teaching and the Duty to Vaccinate

In fact, most teach about a duty and moral obligation to vaccinate.

“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)

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?

More on Vaccines and the Bible

Did an Islamic Council in Indonesia Issue a Fatwa Against the Measles Vaccine?

A fatwa against a vaccine?

That’s one of those things that can’t be true right?

Did you know that there are Fatwas that support immunizations?
Did you know that there are fatwas that support immunizations?

After all, it was just a few years ago that the Islamic Advisory Group for Polio Eradication met and stated that it “reiterates its trust in the safety and effectiveness of polio and other routine childhood vaccinations as a life-saving tool which protects children; and acknowledge that it fully conforms to Islamic rulings.”

A Fatwa Against the Measles Vaccine

Unfortunately, it’s true.

The Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), in a Fatwa Commission Meeting on August 20, established that it is illegal (haram) to use vaccines that utilize pigs and their derivatives, including the MR (measles-rubella) vaccine.

Importantly though, they also stated that the use of the MR vaccine is permissible (mubah), because there is no alternative vaccine and measles and rubella are dangerous diseases. So it is still not a good reason to seek a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.

What’s the concern?

Some vaccines use gelatin as a stabilizer. And the gelatin in those vaccines typically comes from pigs.

This isn’t a new issue though.

In 1995, Islamic legal scholars met at a seminar convened by the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences on the topic The Judicially Prohibited and Impure Substances in Foodstuff and Drugs.

“Transformation which means the conversion of a substance into another substance, different in characteristics, changes substances that are judicially impure or are found in an impure environment, into pure substances, and changes substances that are prohibited into lawful and permissible substances.”

The seminar concluded that “The gelatin formed as a result of the transformation of the bones, skin and tendons of a judicially impure animal is pure…”

So even though Muslims can’t eat pork, they can take medicines packaged in gelatin capsules and they can get vaccines that contain gelatin.

Fortunately, although although some immunization programs ordered a temporary delay when the fatwa was first issued, MR vaccination has resumed in Indonesia. That’s good news, as measles outbreaks are still common in the region.

But why has this become an issue again?

More on the Fatwa Against the Measles Vaccine

 

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Adults have the right, both morally and legally, to make decisions about their medical care.

What about kids?

Until they become adults, or are close to becoming adults, their parents or legal guardians have the right to make those decisions for them.

Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

There are situations in which a parent’s rights to make medical decisions for their kids can be contested. In general, you can’t make decisions that will obviously harm or put your child at extra risk.

“In most countries, parents have a legal right to make treatment decisions on behalf of their young children. Such rights are normally rebuttable: they can be set aside by courts where parents’ decisions pose a significant risk to the life or well-being of the child.”

Tim Dare on Parental rights and medical decisions

For example, if a parent continues to refuse antibiotic therapy and hospitalization for a life-threatening infection, like meningitis, then the child’s doctor will likely contact child protection services and get authorization to treat the child anyway.

What if you refuse a meningitis vaccine? Although a bad idea that puts your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease, unless your child is in the middle of an epidemic, it is very unlikely that anyone would call child protective services on you. In the situations in which courts have gotten involved in getting kids vaccinated and protected, it was because an unvaccinated child was in foster care for another reason, two parents disagreed about vaccines, or rarely, there was an epidemic and the parents refused to either get vaccinated or stay in quarantine.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that all children deserve effective medical treatment that is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death.”

AAP on Religious Objections to Medical Care

Why do these cases come up, cases which certain folks call medical kidnapping?

“Parents are free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Prince v. Massachusetts

It may be that the parents:

  • refused treatment because of religious objections
  • thought that the risks and side effects of the treatment were worse than their child having the disease
  • want to pursue alternative treatments for cancer or other life-threatening conditions, instead of chemotherapy and other standard therapies, especially in situations in which standard therapy has a good chance of success
  • don’t believe the diagnosis is real and are pursuing other treatments that are harming the child
  • want to continue treatments that doctors think have become futile
  • have lost custody of their kids for reasons that have nothing to do with the child’s medical issues and so a legal guardian, which might be the state, is making those decisions now

Fortunately, these situations are not very common, no matter how much some folks try to scare parents that the state is coming to kidnap kids away and force them to get vaccinated or get other treatments. Yes, courts do sometimes have to step in and do what they think is right for a child over a parent’s wishes, but there is no epidemic of doctors or child protective services kidnapping kids.

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Although you can sometimes challenge the decisions a parent makes when their kids are sick, and in some cases, ultimately treat their kids in ways that those parents might not agree with, again, you can’t simply take or kidnap a child and do whatever you like.

“Physicians have both a moral obligation and a legal responsibility to question and, if necessary, to contest both the surrogate’s and the patient’s medical decisions if they put the patient at significant risk of serious harm.”

AAP on Informed Consent in Decision-Making in Pediatric Practice

Except in emergencies, overriding a parent’s wishes is usually a long process, involving second opinions, an ethics panel or team, child protective services, and the courts. In most cases, a judge, sometimes after several appeals, decides what will ultimately be done, looking at all of the evidence from both sides.

That the process takes time is evident when you look at the timeline from the legal battle for Alfie Evans. Although most people likely think everything began when the tragic story finally made headlines, a few weeks before his death, it was at least four months earlier that the hospital began “liaising directly with the family after disagreements over his treatment.” And it was four months before that, when Alfie was 13-months-old, that the hospital had first started talking about withdrawing life-support treatment.

It took a hearing before judge in the family division of the high court, three court of appeal judges, a review by supreme court justices, and a review by the judges at the European court of human rights for Alder Hey Children’s hospital to withdraw Alfie’s life-support treatment.

That the process took so much time was missed by those who push the idea of medical kidnapping. These same folks, in the case of Alfie Evans, are also pushing claims of vaccine injury, a plot to illegally harvest organs, a plot to cover up a misdiagnosis and medical neglect by the hospital, a plot to kill him with a lethal injection, and that others had a plan to help him get better.

Many of the same issues were raised in the case of Charlie Gard, an infant who was taken off life support at another UK hospital against his parent’s wishes.

Other cases have included:

What about when doctors disagree on a diagnosis and plan of care? Can parents simply pick which one they prefer?

In most cases you can.

Doctors have different styles and there are often different treatment plans for the same condition. The trouble typically comes when a parent chooses an alternative type treatment that has been shown to not work or is known to be harmful. Or provides treatments a child doesn’t even need.

Tragically, we often don’t hear about these cases until it is too late and the child dies before doctors and courts ever have a chance to intervene. When folks talk about medical kidnapping, they don’t seem to mention kids like:

  • Ezekiel Stephan – died at 19-months because his parents treated his bacterial meningitis with natural remedies, including “water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root”
  • Madeline Kara Neumann – the 11-year-old who died because her parents relied on prayer instead of modern medicine to treat her diabetes
  • Ryan Lovett – the 7-year-old who died with a Strep skin infection that his mother had been treating with “holistic remedies,” allowing it to progress to pneumonia, meningitis, and multiple organ failure
  • Louise Le Moaligou – an 11-month-old who died because her parents treated her pneumonia with “cabbage and clay compressions”
  • Gloria Thomas – died at 9-months because her parents pursued homeopathic remedies for her severe eczema, even as she developed malnutrition and sepsis.
  • Isabella Denley – a 13-month-old with severe seizures who died after her parents opted for alternative treatments over anti-convulsant medications, including a “vibrational kinesiologist, a cranial osteopath and a psychic who told them Isabella was suffering from a past-life trauma.”
  • Cameron Ayres – a 6-month-old who died with a likely inherited metabolic disorder that was treated by a homeopath with vinegar and honey
  • Eliza Jane Scovill – died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 3-years. Eliza Jane was the daughter of Christine Maggiore, an HIV denialist who advised HIV positive moms to not take preventive antiviral drugs during their pregnancy, the one thing that would have kept Eliza Jane from getting HIV in the first place.
  • Alex Radita – the 15-year-old with diabetes who died because his parents wouldn’t treat him with insulin
  • Aidan Fenton – the 6-year-old with diabetes who died after undergoing slapping therapy by a Chinese healer, therapy that also involved fasting for “days on end.”
  • Garnett Spears – a 5-year-old who supposedly had multiple medical problems, but instead was poisoned by his mother, who was adding a lot of extra salt to his g-tube feeding bags
  • Gypsy Rose Blanchard – after a lifetime of being told she was “sick,” including having leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and seizures, Gypsy and her boyfriend stabbed her mother to death
  • the 6-week-old in South Texas with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who never received vitamin K prophylaxis at birth and died after developing brain bleeding and seizures
  • the 3-week-old in Indiana with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who was born in a birthing center and whose “parents signed a waiver to forego vaccination and prophylactic therapies,” and required an emergency craniotomy to evacuate braining bleeding, prolonged intubation, and difficult to control seizures
  • Tom, Roger, and Chrissy Williamson – the three children were taken to over 500 doctor appointments, put on medications for epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, etc, and had unnecessary surgeries because their mother made doctors think they were sick
  • Amina Krouser – a 14-year-old who died after a neglected sore throat led to a life-threatening brain infection, for which her mother refused emergency surgery.
  • Christopher Bowen – an 8-year-old who had 13 major surgeries and 323 visits to the hospital because his mother fooled doctors into thinking he had a rare genetic disorder
  • the Oregon mother who’s three kids had unnecessary surgeries and were put on high dose “cocktails” of medicine, including one that she was trying to put in hospice

Trouble can also come when a child gets diagnosed or re-diagnosed with a more controversial condition. That seems to be what happened with Justina Pelletier, a teen who was kept and treated at Boston Children’s Hospital against her parent’s wishes. The doctors there doubted her original diagnosis, that she had a mitochondrial disorder.

“Unfortunately, mitochondrial genetic disorders can be difficult to diagnose, and many affected people may never receive a specific diagnosis. They are often suspected in people who have a condition that effects multiple, unrelated systems of the body.”

NIH on Mitochondrial genetic disorders

Similar to mito disorders, there are other conditions that are often difficult to diagnose, including Ehlers-Danlos, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuro-Psychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS).

Getting diagnosed or treated with these conditions wouldn’t usually be an issue, except that some alternative, holistic, and integrative health care providers take advantage of them. They might even stretch the disease definitions to make them fit almost anyone with vague symptoms and use treatments that many others would consider harmful, or at least unnecessary. It isn’t hard to see that even when a child gets a genuine diagnosis for one of these conditions, it might get questioned because they might have seen others that turned out to be misdiagnosed.

To be clear, these are all very real conditions that are almost certainly under-diagnosed because many doctors still don’t understand them. If you suspect that your child has one of these conditions, or any other rare condition, try and seek out a true expert to confirm the diagnosis. Does everyone who comes to the clinic get a diagnosis and list of supplements to buy? Then that likely isn’t the “expert” you want your kid to see.

Did you know that many of the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctors that once pushed biomed treatments to “cure” autism are now some of the same doctors continuing to push autism biomed treatments, but are now also diagnosing and treating kids with mito disorders.

And remember when all of those kids in LeRoy, New York developed tics for no good reason? One doctor, who actually runs a PANDAS institute, diagnosed many in the cluster with PANDAS.

It shouldn’t be surprising that many of these DAN doctors, including many who are not actually medical doctors, are also in the PANDAS Physicians Network Practitioner Directory.

Are they all cutting edge doctors helping to diagnose and cure kids when no one else can? Or as in the case of their autism biomed treatments, are they taking advantage of people looking for hope wherever they can?

Complicating matters further, some providers also diagnose kids with conditions like adrenal fatigue and chronic Lyme disease that most doctors don’t even think exist!

“Government should not get involved when doctors disagree about a diagnosis or course of treatment, the doctors have full knowledge of the child’s medical record, and a parent chooses one doctor’s opinion over another’s.”

Maxine Eichner on The New Child Abuse Panic

Government should not have to get involved when doctors disagree, but quack doctors shouldn’t be out there taking advantage of people either, especially to the point that it is going to harm a child. When they do, someone needs to step in and protect those kids.

And when you hear a story about a “medical kidnapping,” remember that you typically just get one side of the story. Because of privacy laws, the doctor, hospital, and CPS likely isn’t going to release any details that will help you understand why they felt the child was at risk.

Even more importantly,  when folks tell you that medical child abuse isn’t real and doesn’t happen, tell them about about the victims named above.

What to Know About Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

Challenging and taking away a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their child is something that is typically only done in extreme situations.

More on Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

The Catholic Church and Vaccines

We hear a lot about the Catholic Church and vaccines.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is lawful to get vaccinated to protect
The Catholic Church teaches that it is lawful to get vaccinated to protect “our children, public health, and the common good.” The National Catholic Bioethics Center

Maybe it is because Pope Francis led a polio vaccine campaign when he visited Mexico.

Pope Francis helped launch a polio vaccine campaign when he visited Mexico in 2016.
Pope Francis helped launch a polio vaccine campaign when he visited Mexico in 2016.

Or because Pope Francis thanked members of the Rotary International during an Audience at the Vatican, where the Pope “emphasized the importance of vaccinations against polio and urged Rotary to continue.”

History of the Catholic Church and Vaccines

Pope Francis isn’t the first Pope to promote vaccination.

Way back in the early 1800s, Pope Pius VII said the smallpox vaccine was “a precious discovery which ought to be a new motive for human gratitude to Omnipotence.”

But wasn’t there an anti-vaccine pope too?

Some claimed that Pope Leo XII had said that “Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgment of God, the vaccination is a challenge toward heaven.

He didn’t say it though – the anti-vax edict from the Pope was imaginary!

There was no anti-vaccine pope.

Endorsement of vaccination by the Catholic Church had started long before the smallpox vaccine. As early as the 1720s, Jesuits were inoculating Indians in the Amazon against smallpox.

Other noteworthy events in the history of the Catholic Church related to vaccines include:

  • 1757 – Pope Benedict XIV was inoculated against smallpox
  • 1780s – introduction of public vaccinations by the archbishop of Bamberg, Germany
  • 1821 – Council of Vaccination
  • 1800s – priests routinely led processions of people to get vaccinated against smallpox
  • 1862 – Catholic missionaries vaccinated the Quwutsun in the Pacific Northwest

Sean Phillips, in examining the records of the Osler Library, has also found “a story of close cooperation between clergy and the state from the earliest stages of the vaccine in France…” That was important, because when smallpox epidemics were raging, the clergy functioned “as a conduit between the medical community and the majority of cities, towns, and communes in France throughout the nineteenth century.”

Vaccines and Abortion

Of course, one of the main reasons that vaccines and the Catholic Church comes up at all is because of abortion.

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

What does abortion have to do with vaccines?

While much of what you hear about abortion and vaccines isn’t true, some of it is:

  • Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue.
  • Some vaccines are made in cell lines that originated from fetuses that were aborted over 40 years ago.
  • These vaccines are made in descendent cells from either the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, which have been duplicated over and over again and are grown independently. So, “it is important to note that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child.”
  • The descendent cells don’t remain in the final vaccine after it has been purified.

It should be clear now why they say that these vaccines are said to have a “distant association with abortion.”

“For its part, Catholic social teaching entails a duty to vaccinate in order to protect the vulnerable.”

Paul J. Carson on Catholic Social Teaching and the Duty to Vaccinate

And why it is said that Catholics are “morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion” and that “it should be obvious that vaccine use in these cases does not contribute directly to the practice of abortion since the reasons for having an abortion are not related to vaccine preparation.”

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Catholics can seek an alternative vaccine when available and “register a complaint with the manufacturer of the products as an acceptable form of conscientious objection,” but the The National Catholic Bioethics Center states that “there is no moral obligation to register such a complaint in order to use these vaccines.”

Not only are we morally free to get vaccinated and vaccinate our kids, but the National Catholic Bioethics Center says that parents actually “have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

What to Know About the Catholic Church and Vaccines

From measles to HPV, the Catholic Church recommends that your family be vaccinated and protected.

More About the Catholic Church and Vaccines

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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

 

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.

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