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Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society Rejects 'Personal Belief' Immunization Exemptions

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  • Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society Rejects 'Personal Belief' Immunization Exemptions

    Research has shown that children who are exempted from vaccinations have a 35-fold higher risk for measles, a 23-fold higher risk for pertussis and a nine-fold higher risk for varicella than do vaccinated children.
    Stock photo of clinician immunizing young girl
    Citing these and similar statistics, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, or PIDS, recently released a position statement (7-page PDF; About PDFs) opposing any legislation or regulation that would allow children to be exempted from mandatory immunizations based on their parents' -- or, in the case of teens, their own -- secular personal beliefs.

    "More personal exemptions mean more children who aren't vaccinated," said Paul Hunter, M.D., associate medical director for the City of Milwaukee Health Department and one of three former AAFP vaccine science fellows who recently talked to AAFP News Now about immunization policies. "You have to have a high percentage of children vaccinated to have herd immunity and prevent disease spread. If you get clusters of people in a community using personal exemptions, that's when outbreaks happen. That particular community is going to be at risk."

    All states allow children who have medical contraindications to immunization to opt out, the PIDS statement notes. Most states also permit parents to exempt their children from vaccination based on their religious beliefs, although the degree to which parents must prove or document such beliefs varies greatly from state to state. In some instances, for example, parents need only state that their religion opposes vaccination to be granted exemption, despite the fact that "no major religions specifically discourage exemptions," the statement points out.