Measures that require children to be vaccinated were enacted as a means to protect school-age children from contracting and spreading various diseases. When making the decision on whether to vaccinate your child, it is important to know your own state’s laws. What may be a legal exception to the vaccine requirement in one state, may not be the same in another state.
Though no federal law exists that requires parents to vaccinate their children, all 50 states have laws that require school children to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP vaccine); hepatitis (HBV); measles and rubella (MMR vaccine); polio (IPV vaccine); and varicella (chickenpox). Medical exemptions to vaccination are allowed in all 50 states, 47 states allow religious exemptions, and 18 states allow philosophical (personal beliefs) exemptions.
Vaccination is a contentious topic for many people. Lawsuits against parents who did not vaccinate their children have developed as a result of their children falling ill and infecting others. If a parent does not comply with a school’s vaccination policy, the child will not be allowed to attend, and the parent can then be arrested for the child’s truancy. For this reason, many anti-vaccination parents have chosen to homeschool their children.
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Legally Opting Out From Vaccinations: Personal Exemptions Beliefs
There are 18 states that allow parents to opt-out of vaccinations based on their philosophical, personal, or moral beliefs. Though it is possible to opt-out of vaccination, the risk to the public’s health may not preclude the parent from being sued by another party who may become injured as a result. In some cases, parents who are anti-immunization may also be at risk of criminal prosecution.
As vaccination controversy continues to grow and the rates of measles and other serious, life-threatening illnesses are rising, many states are refusing to accept a personal, moral, or philosophical exemption.
Warnings From the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns of the risk posed to the public for those who do not vaccinate their children. Most diseases that are preventable through vaccine, are spread from one person to another. If one person gets sick, the disease can be transmitted to others who are not immune. When more people are vaccinated, the less opportunity a disease has to cause illness.
Though the United States has very low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases, this isn’t the case for other countries. Vaccination prevents the senseless spread of potentially fatal diseases, but having just one non-immunized person fall ill of a deadly disease, could trigger a serious outbreak. For instance, one sick person on an airplane flight could start a string of outbreaks nationwide, and possibly, worldwide.
Not only do vaccines protect other school children, but also those individuals who cannot receive vaccinations. For instance, some cancer patients are extremely susceptible to diseases. If they come into contact with one of these diseases, their immune system simply cannot fight off the infection, and they may die. In some cases, a person’s physiological make-up does not respond to the vaccine, so they, too, cannot fight off the infection.
Of course, there are also infants and newborns who are too young to receive certain vaccines. While, currently, parents cannot be held criminally liable for exposing a child or chronically ill person to a preventable disease like measles, parents who do not vaccinate can face a certain amount of social backlash.
Outbreaks have been occurring off and on across the country. An outbreak of measles at Disneyland prompted California to require vaccination for all school children with only a medical exception permitted. California is one of the strictest states on vaccination, and also has a correlating low rate of disease transmission.
Separated Parents and the Question of Vaccination
Often, parents that are separated can disagree about the best medical steps for their child. If one parent refuses to vaccinate, but the other parents insists on it, then which parent should prevail? Often, parents against vaccination feel that vaccinating their child will put them in physical danger, potentially death. But parents that are for vaccination feel equally as strong, and view vaccinations as a way to prevent a serious and deadly illness.
It will depend on where the parents live, like if they live in a state that refuses to accept philosophical, moral, or personal exemptions, then it doesn’t matter if a parent feels strongly against it. But if one parent does and the other parent doesn’t, then it will depend on where that child primarily resides.
On top of that, it will depend on if one parent was given more power over medical choices, which doesn’t typically happen. Ultimately, the court will weigh in and apply the best interest standard, which will more likely favor vaccinating the child over not vaccinating it. Despite how strongly a parent might feel about the issue.
Seeking an Attorney’s Advice On Child Vaccinations
If you have any questions relating to liability and the failure to vaccinate, you should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. State laws vary, and an experienced lawyer will be able to review your case, provide guidance, and assist you in putting together a defense. Your lawyer will walk you through the entire legal process and while protecting your best interests in court.