Viewpoint: The US must eliminate non-medical vaccine exemptions

The U.S. must eliminate non-medical exemptions to its vaccine laws to protect public health, according to a staff editorial from Scientific American.

While all 50 states require vaccinations for children entering school, most also offer religious or philosophical exemptions. The entire country must follow the lead of states like California, Mississippi, West Virginia and Maine that have recently eliminated such non-medical exemptions, the authors write. Such measures protect those who cannot get vaccinated because they are too young or have health issues.

The authors argue against certain half-way measures, such as simply making it more difficult to obtain religious or philosophical exemptions or eliminating exemptions for only certain vaccines. They write that these approaches legitimize decisions not to vaccinate and imply some vaccines are more important than others.

To address the parallel problem of undervaccination, the authors recommend healthcare providers warn patients of undervaccination risks. Reminders sent from schools have also proven effective in the past. 

Many people who choose not to vaccinate say they should not be forced to put medicine into their or their child's body, but the authors say collective needs trump individual preference in this case. "It's not a matter of freedom; it's a matter of public safety," they write.

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