An Associated Press study on vaccination rates for school children has revealed that more and more parents are opting out of the recommended schedule of childhood immunizations. In eight states, the rate exceeds 5 percent of incoming kindergartners. All 50 states mandate a series of vaccinations in order to admit a child into public school. The required vaccinations vary and so do the allowable reasons for exemption from the requirement.
The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a website listing the exemptions from school immunization requirements by state. The exemptions fall into three categories:
* Medical: A child may be exempt from the immunization requirement if a physician certifies that the child is already immunized by virtue of having had the illness, is at a serious health risk from the immunization or is allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine.
* Religious: Many states allow parents to request exemption from immunization requirements based upon their religion. Some states require such a certification from the family's clergy or church leader. Some states recognize by name those religions that hold this belief.
* Philosophical / Personal: Twenty states allow the parents to request that their child be exempt from school immunizations based upon a philosophical or personal objection. States vary in how that can be obtained. There may be an essay about those beliefs or just a signature on a form stating the objection.
In 2010 there was a large outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in the United States. California declared it an epidemic. As of November 16, 2010, 62 percent of the cases had occurred in the six states of California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. All six states allow a philosophical objection to school immunizations.
California, Texas and Ohio were among the 27 states in the 2009 National Immunization Survey (NIS) that had pertussis immunization rates below the national average. Statistical analysis done in September 2010 showed that the 12 states that both allowed a personal or philosophical exemption and were below the national average in immunization rates accounted for 59 percent of the reported cases at that time.
Parents object to immunizations for a variety of reasons, according to a survey in the journal Pediatrics. AP cites several in their report. Some parents see certain immunizations as unnecessary. Parents can believe that the risks of an immunization outweighs the benefit. Income may not be a factor. The California whooping cough epidemic was centered in the wealthiest communities.
The damage done by a bogus medical study from England in the 1990's remains. A respected medical journal published a study that purported to demonstrate a relationship between receiving the MMR vaccine and an increased risk of autism. The journal has since retracted the study.
The Centers for Disease Control offer a comprehensive website for parents about childhood vaccinations. It provides links to the latest information about vaccine safety as well as links for a great deal of other information about various vaccines, the laws involved and related material.
- childhood immunizations