USA Today: Vaccine opt-outs put public health at risk

In an editorial yesterday, USA Today’s editors called attention to a growing public health problem: the resurgence of vaccine preventable illnesses as a result of parents choosing to forgo vaccinating their children. The paper notes recent outbreaks of measles in small clusters, including Orange County, California, which saw 22 cases reported this month, and Brooklyn, New York. In all of 2013, there were 189 cases reported nationwide. Already this year, we’ve seen 115 cases, in a very dangerous trend.

Part of the problem, the editors note, are state laws that grant exceptions for mandatory vaccines for kindergarteners:

Making matters worse are state laws that make it too easy to opt out of what are supposed to be mandatory vaccines for all children entering kindergarten.

Seventeen states allow parents to get a “philosophical exemption,” sometimes just by signing a paper saying they personally object to a vaccine. Others define religious exemptions too broadly. In Oregon, they can include almost any belief or practice.

Several states are moving to tighten laws by adding new barriers to opting out. Last year, Oregon added a small hurdle. A similar measure was moving through Colorado’s Senate last week. But neither does enough to limit exemptions.

Parents ought to be able to opt out for strictly defined medical or religious reasons. But personal opinions? Not good enough. Everyone enjoys the life-saving benefits vaccines provide, but they’ll exist only as long as everyone shares in the risks.

Read the full article here.

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