Vt. debates letting parents say no to vaccines
Vermont lawmakers are considering eliminating the “philosophical” exemption to the vaccination requirements that usually apply to children attending school and day care in the state. Vermont has one of the highest rates in the country of children who aren’t vaccinated according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and supporters of ending the exemption (which essentially allows parents to opt out of some or all of the recommended vaccinations on behalf of their children) argue that low vaccination rates contributed to an outbreak of pertussis in the state earlier this year.
Vermont Public Radio reports that “the vast majority of parents who choose not to vaccinate cite philosophical opposition.” Twenty states allow an exemption for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.
If Vermont were to end the philosophical exemption, it would be a reversal of recent trends — in the last decade, states have tended toward loosening their vaccination requirements, with Texas and Arkansas adding exemptions for personal beliefs, as opposed to religious or medical reasons, in 2003. (Every state except Mississippi and West Virginia allows parents to proclaim a religious reason for not vaccinating a child.) Parents citing nonreligious reasons for the choice not to vaccinate often opt for some vaccinations, but not others, or vaccinate according to a different schedule. Parents with religious beliefs that preclude vaccination are more likely not to vaccinate their children at all.