I was discussing my passion for educating people about the need to get vaccinated with my wife. We were specifically talking about vaccination exemptions in light of the pertussis epidemic in California.
I explained how two of my coworkers felt that having the right to opt out was important. She said that since I was such a supporter of critical thinking I should be supporting people’s right to opt out.
I told her that my coworkers held common misconceptions about vaccines, like they cause autism and brain damage, or that there is mercury in them and since they were misinformed they couldn’t make an informed decision about it.
I believe that more needs to be done to educate the public about the facts about vaccines. Another thing that needs to happen is that obtaining an exemption should be made with informed consent. For example, here is the current rules regarding vaccine exemption in California:
“Each student in California is required to submit a “California School Immunization Record” to be admitted to school (California Health and Safety Code Section 12-375).
On the reverse of the form is the following statement: “I hereby request exemption of the child, named in the front, from the immunization requirements for school/child care center entry because these immunizations are contrary to my beliefs. I understand that in case of an outbreak of any of these diseases, the child may be temporarily excluded from school for his/her protection.” To exercise the exemption, you simply sign the immunization record under this statement.
There is another exemption which is available, although it is more difficult to exercise because a medical opinion is necessary. If immunization is “contraindicated”, that is, considered to be potentially harmful to the child for medical reasons, an exemption is granted upon the filing with of “a written statement by a licensed physician to the effect that the physical condition of the child is such, or medical circumstances relating to the child are such, that immunization is not considered safe, indicating the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances that contraindicate immunization…” (California Health and Safety Code Section 120370).”
Why is it so much easier to get an exemption just because it is contrary to your beliefs, but you have to jump though hoops to get a medical exemption? Shouldn’t both require the same kind of standards?
I believe that if you wish to have an exemption because it is contrary to your beliefs, you should at a minimum be required to read, sign and have witnessed, an information form explaining the the real, proven risks of vaccines, along with the facts of the consequences of not vaccinating, such as the symptoms of the diseases that the vaccines in question are designed to fight and the facts about the injuries and mortality rates associated with each disease. This would be real, informed consent.
Yes, people have a right to consider not vaccinating their children, but that right can only go so far. It must be weighted against the public health risk of the reduction of herd immunity in each community.
We need a major public health initiative to educate the public about the real risks and benefits of vaccines. People need to be educated about the real risks of the vaccine verses the real risks of the disease itself because the risks of injury and death from the disease is far, far greater than the risks of the vaccine.
For information about the vaccines and requirements of exemptions where you live you can check out the following sources: