Governor Shumlin (reluctantly) signs legislation to remove philosophical or “personal belief” exemptions from vaccination law.
A 2012 version had allowed parents to claim a philosophical or so-called “personal belief” exemption for their children but required the parents to review “educational materials” before claiming it. There was no way to enforce the educational mandate. There is no doubt that strategy did not work: areas of the state remain below 80% immunization rates necessary to protect the vulnerable population, those with compromised immune systems or too young to be vaccinated. Meanwhile the rate of philosophical exemptions filed by parents of kindergartners climbed from 5.1% to 5.9% in 2014, and dense pockets of vaccine non-compliance in some communities provide the ideal environment for an epidemic to take hold.
Vermont was one of the three worst states for cases of whooping cough. The record number of cases in 2012 should have been enough to get the 2012 bill turned around, but it wasn’t until the recent US outbreak of measles that the Vermont legislature took a stand for public health.
It’s important to note that Vermont still retains a “religious” exemption from vaccination, as do 46 other states, and medical exemptions as do all 50 US states. It doesn’t seem possible to predict parental response to vaccination requirements with regards to “personal” versus “religous” exemptions, but the data are certainly clear that allowing only medical exemptions gets vaccination rates up to 99.7%.
It’s nice not having measles in Mississippi. Now, maybe it can be nice not having measles in Vermont, either.
Hotshoe, FWIW, I don’t like the idea of distinguishing “personal” from “religious” exemptions. I think they should all stay or all go, and I much prefer the latter. The idea that someone’s “religious” views trump my ethical (or whatever) “non-religious” views really offends me. The only thing that makes a belief “religious” IMHO is that it’s particularly weird or silly.
I agree. Religious exemptions are a symptom of the double standard I was complaining about in the other thread:
I don’t like that either. However, as a pragmatist, I accept that it might solve most of the problem yet avoid getting it tied up in litigation for a gazillion years.
Maybe allow personal and religious objections. But requesting an objection requires a filing fee, where the fee is set at a level where most people would find it easier to just vaccinate.
I actually think your/my “personal” or “philosophical” exemptions should trump “religious” exemptions as a rule. If you or I have objections to participating in some civic duty, say, serving in the military, we’ve probably thought it through much more carefully than any of the religious follow-the-leaders folks have. Well, that’s not completely true in the realm of anti-vaxxers many of whom are some kind of new-age dafties not especially known for thinking things through carefully. But on the whole, your point is good: what makes a belief “religious” (instead of just “ethical” or whatever) is how weird it is. And why should we, as a society, reinforce weird beliefs with special exemptions?
I think in Vermont’s situation, though, they did the best they could. Religion is usually considered untouchable in politics. They must be hoping that almost all the prior 5+% “personal” exemptions will cooperate with vaccination, now. Doesn’t seem like the right compromise to me, but maybe the only workable compromise given the temper tantrums folks have when you try to take away any of their old religious privileges.
I hope that later Vermont or some other state can remove both “philosophical” and “religious” exemptions. That would be a surprisingly fair world!
I recollect that this has been done on a limited scale and yes, it works. Sorry, I don’t have the energy to dig up a reference, and maybe I’m wrong, but it sure makes sense.
Remove the incentive for parents to take the lazy way of filing a quick, free objection (as opposed to the tedious chore of actually getting their kids vaccinated). Make ’em come up with a filing fee (something reasonable, 20 dollars per child per year, say) and presto, they will suddenly stop “objecting”. Not all of ’em, of course, but enough to make a difference for herd immunity.
The problem is that the cult of “natural rights” and “individual liberty” is also a religion in America. It only goes back to Medieval times and became popular as recently as the 17th Century, so it’s not QUITE as weird and silly as many of the older cults. But its prevalence in the U.S. means that even a $20 fee could end up at the Supreme Court and would no doubt result in street demonstrations and posts exhibiting indignation about rights abridgement and government tyranny right here at SZ. On those issues there seems to be significant agreement between between the folks here and those at UD.
Yep, there surely would be demonstrations in front of courthouses and spittle-flecked outrage at Faux News, and as you suggest, there would surely be a lot of strange-bedfellows support from supposed skeptic people suddenly on the side of the wackos because “personal freedom” or some such slogan.
Dunno what to do about it, though.
I agree with prohibition also.
i think the case is that the people/state are being ,orally imposed upon to deal with unhralthy people just because they have some reason for ignoring a well accepted remedy against same disease.
Its not overthrowing religious faith. In fact that is overthrowing religious faith if forcing society to live with the sick who didn’t need to be.
Likewise society must not be forced to agree with abortion since that hurts the heath of somebody.
Robert, I agree with you that the issues here are not exactly the same as those surrounding abortion and choice.
I wish all folks would get vaccinated, but I don’t like the idea of a government being able to use coercion to force medical care upon the population. I would rather focus on educating people better.
I would rather have freedom, but then I am a libertarian…
Contagious diseases are not friendly to libertarianism.
Sure, but the actual experience of the state of Vermont is that a two-year education program (and national publicity on new outbreaks of whooping cough and measles) had zero effect on the lazy/deluded parents who had no incentive to vaccinate their little darlings.
Meanwhile, those libertarian parents who continued to send their possibly-contagious children out into public were risking the fact that they could infect a baby too young to be vaccinated and kill that baby.
Are you willing to be passive and let someone else’s infectious child kill your new baby, just because you don’t think the government should “coerce” stupid parents into getting their own children vaccinated?
Remember, education doesn’t work — or at least, it doesn’t work well enough to turn the non-vaccination rates around in a generation — and someone you love is definitely at risk. If it’s not your new baby, it might be one of your best friend’s kids who has a medical issue where they cannot be vaccinated, a parent or grandparent who has s compromised immune system …
What does libertarianism say about your do-nothing-dont-vaccinate neighbors killing someone you love with an infectious disease that they could have prevented?
Reality has a well-known liberal bias.
Note, that’s “liberal” not “libertarian”. 🙂
Do you object to forced vaccinations per se, or are you just afraid that they are the start of a slippery slope toward more intrusive government interventions?
My father — decades before it was fashionable — was an advocate of dirt. A metaphor for the prophylactic properties of less than perfect sanitation for children. In the 50s, when polio was scaring the hell out of Americans, he pointed out that India had no paralytic polio.
Vaccines are domesticated dirt. That is one of the activities of scientific medicine — to notice natural healing properties and tame them. A current thought being investigated is whether kids who grow up in ultra sanatized homes have more allergies.
Anecdotally, I see a lot more kids, and even one teacher, with severe nut allergies than I ever heard about when I was in elementary or secondary school. I don’t know if it’s better detection or that we’re raising a generation of weaklings.