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Vaccination, which is actually overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, is a well-established practice that has for decades been the cornerstone of safe childhood healthcare in the US. But despite this, certain states have exempted parents from having their children vaccinated against at least half of the diseases that are keeping children sidelined in the first place. Most notably of these exemptions is the “personal belief” exemption, which allows families to opt out of vaccinations for children based on philosophical beliefs.
New York City has had a similar personal belief exemption for twenty years. In 2011, city officials imposed a 20 percent vaccination requirement for all city employees, keeping city offices sterile and safe for work. Many public schools also have a similar mandate, something of a common-sense idea that many policies ignore, but which was not enough to withstand a year of challenging legal action, according to the New York Times. The decision was handed down by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, citing a troubling trend of increased philosophical exemption rates in New York and across the country. The court said:
There is no question that minors are excluded from school for reasons far more common than philosophical belief. The flight of alternative medicine and witchcraft into the federal court system since 2007 reveals a movement so pervasive that in the New York State Court of Appeals and the New York Court of Human Rights it was not until 2009 that some state courts openly admitted they were enforcing “personal belief” exemptions in violation of an Orwellian notion of separation of church and state.
The court went on to question the city’s decision to make its teachers and administrators unvaccinated:
On a narrower level, New York City’s refusal to require all children in its schools to be vaccinated may seem admirable in theory. Requiring mandatory vaccines for those with philosophical objections could ultimately be argued to be just what Galileo advocated for in the 12th century: a universal, if not universal, police of all infirmities.
But in the developing public health emergency surrounding and prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases, New York City’s policy also undercuts a further aim of combating this modern form of the evil of seroptics: stem cell research, which would eventually lead to finding vaccines that work for more than one disease.
Of course, many people choose not to vaccinate their children, but what many people don’t understand is that the personal belief exemption allows them to be left unvaccinated not only for education, but also for peace of mind. This exemption puts their children at risk, and by virtue of creating a pool of these children, risks all other children, as well. Sadly, they are also creating a pool of children at risk that grows each year, as fewer and fewer families opt for the opt-out.