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Medicine United States

Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements? 1051

An anonymous reader writes: Michigan has a problem. Over the past decade, the number of unvaccinated kindergartners has spiked. "Nearly half of the state's population lives in counties with kindergarten vaccination rates below the level needed for "herd immunity," the public health concept that when at least 93 percent of people are vaccinated, their immunity protects the vulnerable and prevents the most contagious diseases from spreading." Surprise, surprise, the state is now in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak. How do these kids get into public schools without being vaccinated? Well, Michigan is among the 19 U.S. states that allow "philosophical" objections to the vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. (And one of the 46 states allowing religious exemption.) A new editorial is now calling for an end to the "philosophical" exemption.

The article says, "Those who choose not to be vaccinated and who choose not to vaccinate their children allow a breeding ground for diseases to grow and spread to others. They put healthy, vaccinated adults at risk because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. They especially put the most vulnerable at risk — infants too young to be vaccinated, the elderly, people with medical conditions that prevent vaccination, and those undergoing cancer treatments or whose immune systems have been weakened." They also encourage tightening the restrictions on religious and medical waivers so that people don't just check a different box on the exemption form to get the same result. "They are free to continue believing vaccines are harmful, even as the entire medical and scientific communities try in vain to tell them otherwise. But they should not be free to endanger the lives of everyone else with their views."
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

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  • by stevez67 ( 2374822 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:01PM (#48581851)
    Stupidity and fear.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:13PM (#48582043)

      Stupidity and fear.

      Education and being skeptical.

      But unfortunately, humans evolved to jump to conclusions and see connections when there isn't any: gee my son was vaccinated and he is autistic - vaccinations cause autism! Or the homeopathy people: I took this remedy and my cold went away in 5 days! It works! They never consider that their cold would have went away in 5 days anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:54PM (#48582645)

      Stupidity and fear.

      As aptly demonstrated around this top thread. People who actually have had severe reactions to vaccines are being modded down, even when their fear is fact-backed and entirely rational. Sure, damage has been done by the media, but people are still trying to do what's right. But they have concerns, and feel those concerns aren't being addressed by those administering the vaccines.

      Vaccines work, that's a fact. A low percentage of people have adverse reactions to them - that's also a fact. That is, there is a risk. The risk is perceived as far higher than it really is, but that's human nature so it will have to be dealt with in a human manner. If you want higher vaccination rates, the risk factor shouldn't be swept under the carpet, but addressed:

      - by educating people about how big the risks really are;
      - by informing them about those risks, BEFORE their jab, rather than merely by handing out a flyer afterwards;
      - by doing whatever necessary to ensure jabs aren't administered to people who might have an adverse reaction - don't just shoot up people, but have the necessary bloodwork done in advance;
      - by making vaccines ever safer - this is already being done (mercury has been eliminated as preservant, for example) and needs to continue;
      - by providing an alternative vaccination schedule for those who worry about the regular one, e.g. by permitting individual M,M,R vaccinations as opposed to one big cocktail (right now people can't, even if they're willing to foot the bill for it).

      (Posting as AC because I'm too lazy to log in after writing up this post)

      • by TangoMargarine ( 1617195 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @03:28PM (#48584531) Journal

        The risk is perceived as far higher than it really is, but that's human nature so it will have to be dealt with in a human manner.

        I don't think humans are wired to intuit high-risk, high-reward probability spaces very well. There's the lottery, and then this vaccination thing, too (ignoring a few pertinent facets of it, obviously).

        Imagine the following game: you roll 2d10 to determine what happens to you. On a roll of...

        2-5) You are instantly murdered.
        6-95) You receive $100 and are free to go.
        96-100) You receive a million bucks and are free to go.

        Do you play the game?

      • by Chalnoth ( 1334923 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @10:02PM (#48587171)

        I'm skeptical that there's actual evidence of severe adverse reactions (aside from the occasional allergic reaction). "I had a vaccine and then this bad thing happened to me," is not an indication that the vaccine caused the bad thing. It might have, but the severe reactions have been so incredibly rare that there's really no evidence of a causal link, as near as I can tell.

        But what you are asking for here is a far, far higher barrier to obtaining a vaccination than is asked for for most any other medical procedure or remedy. The real information is, "This will protect your child, and the population as a whole, from serious diseases. It most likely won't cause any issues. Your child may have minor cold symptoms for a bit, which means the vaccine is working."

        The CDC's page is informative here: []

        Note that under the "severe" reactions is usually the disclaimer that they can't actually be sure this reaction is caused by the vaccine. I'd be willing to bet that disclaimer should really be expanded to encompass every vaccine on the list, aside from the allergic reactions.

      • by mattack2 ( 1165421 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @10:24PM (#48587253)

        - by making vaccines ever safer - this is already being done (mercury has been eliminated as preservant, for example) and needs to continue;

        You are spreading falsehoods also. Give evidence where the mercury-containing preservative caused any problems. You're probably going to point to the supposed evidence towards autism. There isn't any such evidence. Just because it has mercury, doesn't mean it is necessarily poisonous.

        Chlorine can be poisonous, but salt (which contains chlorine) is a necessary nutrient for us.

  • by airdrummer ( 547536 ) <> on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:02PM (#48581863)

    as a parent myself, i am sympathetic to parents' rights, but if someone refuses to vaccinate their children, schools should refuse to allow them in.

    • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:58PM (#48582701)

      I am a parent and I think that not vaccinating ones kids should be equated with child abuse.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @01:17PM (#48583005)

      if someone refuses to vaccinate their children, schools should refuse to allow them in.

      Many states do that. California has a "no shots, no school" policy. Kindergarten registration is in March, when parents receive a list of required shots. If the shots aren't documented by the time school starts in late August, the kid is not allowed to attend class.

      I lived in China for several years, and my kids attended public school there. They have an even better system: They provide the shots at the school. A pair of nurses shows up, all the kids line up, and take their turn. It is very efficient, very cost effective, and requires no time or effort by the parents. They also have fewer complications, since the nurses know exactly what they are doing. They go from school to school and do the same vaccine everyday to hundreds or thousands of kids. So they know the dose, the procedure, and are familiar with common side effects.

      • by plover ( 150551 )

        At age 48, I was required to have proof of measles vaccine before being allowed to attend Arizona State University. I did think it was a ridiculous requirement, but only because I was I was enrolled as an online student from Minnesota.

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:03PM (#48581881)

    Don't remove the exemption, just exempt the people using the exemption from being able to frequent public areas without protective clothing (protective as in protecting others from them, not protective as in protecting them from everyone else).

    Its illegal to be naked in most public places, its illegal to knowingly infect others with dangerous illnesses, so why shouldn't it be illegal to knowingly be in a public place when you are much more open to infection from dangerous illnesses and thus to infect others with them...?

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:07PM (#48581945)

      That would never happen. How could you pass that rule? If you did, how would you ever enforce that?

      Better to simply specify that people must be vaccinated to attend school, get a government job, and receive public benefits.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:09PM (#48581975)
      I was thinking similar. If you take the exemption and there are some cases of the target illnesses reported at a public school, all kids without vaccinations are required to stay home until the outbreak is considered to be over.
      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:30PM (#48582303) Homepage

        I was thinking if you take the exemption and subsequently infect someone you have liability for medical expenses, or criminal liability in the case of death.

        If your decision only affected you, run wild. That's your choice and your right.

        If you infect someone else and make them seriously ill or cause death ... well, that's no longer just you affected by that damned decision, is it?

        This isn't a decision which is made in an vacuum.

    • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `171rorecros'> on Friday December 12, 2014 @03:12PM (#48584353) Homepage
      Right now, religions - at least, some religions - get extra legal benefits that the non-religious don't. Government employees get extra time off for relgious holidays; the non-religious get nothing. Religion is family of metaphysical worldviews, and non-religious philosophies are another branch. Why do certain philosophies get extra privileges?

      If a rule really is a good idea, then it should apply to everyone. If we can get by with some people not complying, then it doesn't need to be mandatory. Religion has nothing to do with it.

      In terms of vaccines, we just need to arrange for consequences. Your kids not vaccinated, and can't demonstrate a medical reason why not? Fine. No public school for them, sorry. Quite probably other benefits are now off-limits, too.

  • Tough call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:03PM (#48581885)
    While I think not getting vaccinated is incredibly stupid, I also worry about setting a standard of the government being able to force things in to your body.
    • I'd even have sympathy for this argument if it were anything but ignorant of how the world works.

      If the government wants you to have something injected into your body for a public health reason, laws already exist requiring quarantine and treatment. What this means is that in practice, people with guns will come in moon suits and escort you away to be dealt with as they please.

      The only illusion here is your illusion that you have a choice.

      • by silfen ( 3720385 )

        The only illusion here is your illusion that you have a choice.

        By your reasoning, we might as well turn ourselves into a totalitarian superstate. After all, all the freedoms we have day-to-day are just an "illusion" anyway since under exceptional circumstances, they could be taken away.

  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:07PM (#48581933) Homepage Journal

    So if you don't want it because you have an invisible friend, then that's ok. If you don't want it because you have a supposedly reasoned and cogent objection, that's not ok?

  • In Massachusetts... (Score:5, Informative)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:13PM (#48582049) Homepage Journal

    Mass. Gen Laws ch.76, Â 15:
    "In the absence of an emergency or epidemic of disease declared by the department of public health, no child whose parent or guardian states in writing that vaccination or immunization conflicts with his sincere religious beliefs shall be required to present said physicianâ(TM)s certificate in order to be admitted to school."

    So there's broad religious exemptions such that anyone willing to claim them can skip the process, but if there is a serious outbreak, then suddenly the exemption goes away. That's not a bad compromise.

    I haven't heard of the state ever declaring such an emergency, but I hope they are ready to do so before an outbreak becomes a full epidemic.

  • by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:14PM (#48582057) Homepage
    If we all got vaccinated, at least we'd have a measure of "nerd immunity".
  • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:14PM (#48582061)

    I cannot hide my incredulity over the fact that Mississippi is one of one only two states that do not permit religious or philosophical exemptions. The other is West Virginia.

    • by hendrips ( 2722525 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:47PM (#48582543)

      Most people who object to vaccination are either 1) wealthy and well educated or 2) members of certain non-mainstream cults/religions. Let's just say that Mississippi is not particularly well known for having a high concentration of people in either of those groups.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:16PM (#48582083) Homepage Journal

    You'd be amazed what stupid people will agree to do for a tenner.

  • by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:17PM (#48582097)
    "I am so glad I didn't get my little Johnny vaccinated. Sure, he died of Measles when he was 3, but at least he didn't catch the autism!"
  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:21PM (#48582169)

    Let's be clear here. What we're talking about is the extermination of whole species of pathogens.

    Won't somebody think of the pathogens?

    This message brought to your by PETP.

  • by rs1n ( 1867908 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:22PM (#48582187)
    A recent outbreak in Texas (last year, in fact) should have given these folks a heads up! []
  • by mrflash818 ( 226638 ) on Friday December 12, 2014 @12:24PM (#48582217) Homepage Journal

    If those that do not get vaccinated die off, then those that get vaccinated, or have strong enough immunity, get to survive.

    Evolution, correct?

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