The global crackdown on parents who refuse vaccines for their kids is on
November 15, 2019 7:42 AM Subscribe
Countries like Germany and Australia are tired of measles outbreaks — so they're moving to fine anti-vaccine parents. There’s a school of thought that refusing vaccines on behalf of your children amounts to child abuse, and that parents should be punished for their decision. We know vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective at preventing the spread of disease, and failing to immunize children can put them (and vulnerable people around them) at tremendous risk of illness or even death when outbreaks occur. Now it seems that Germany, Australia, and a number of other countries are fed up enough with vaccine-refusing parents that they’re experimenting with punitive measures. We haven’t quite reached the level of child abuse charges, but moms and dads in these countries may face fines if they fail to give their kids the recommended shots. In Australia, the directors of schools that let in the unvaccinated kids would be fined, too. This marks a pretty aggressive shift in how we manage vaccine refusers and the costly, deadly outbreaks of diseases like measles and whooping cough they help spark.
But before we start fining anti-vaxxers, there are some much more basic steps the US could take that would improve vaccination rates. And they involve simply making it harder for parents to opt out of routine shots on behalf of their kids.
Vaccines fall under the public health jurisdiction of the states. And there’s currently a lot of variation across the US when it comes to immunization requirements.
Even though all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, 45 states allow exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations, and 15 states currently grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs. (The exceptions are Mississippi, California, and West Virginia, and more recently, New York, and Maine, which now have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the parts of the country that make it easier for people to opt out of their shots tend to have higher rates of ... people opting out of vaccines. So a lax regulatory environment can create space for more parents to refuse vaccines.
That’s why some states have been moving to crack down on this trend — most notably California — which is already seeing success in terms of boosting vaccine coverage rates.
In 2015, another measles outbreak prompted California’s former governor, Jerry Brown, to sign a bill, SB277, that abolished all nonmedical exemptions. And the California experience is instructive for other states that might want to close some of their loopholes.
According to the state health department, the number of kindergarten students in the 2017-2018 school year with all their required vaccines was 95.1 percent — a 4.7 percentage point increase over 2014-2015 and the second highest reported vaccine rate since health authorities started tracking. A recent analysis, published in JAMA, put the opt-out rate at 4.8 percent by 2017.
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments