Some people investigate vaccines and decide against them. If you have done your research and decided that vaccines are not appropriate for you or your family, it's a simple matter to legally avoid recommended immunizations.
Are vaccines mandatory? Manufacturers produce vaccines for the FDA to license and regulate. The CDC establishes a recommended schedule. State legislators then write the laws dictating who must be vaccinated within their state (usually children) and how often. Schools and other institutions enforce the laws. However, vaccines are NOT legally required under several circumstances.
- Young children: In many states, young children are NOT legally required to be vaccinated. Babies born at hospitals may be subjected to a hepatitis B vaccine within hours of birth. However, this is a hospital policy, not a state law. Parents can withhold consent. Children taken to the doctor for well-baby visits are expected to receive several vaccines. However, these are merely recommended by the CDC and enforced by the pediatrician. Unless the state you live in mandates these vaccines for infants, they are NOT legally required. (If parents object to the shots, doctors may challenge their decision or refuse to see them again.) Naturopathic doctors are an option and can be found in the local telephone book.
- Public institution: State vaccine laws are generally written to regulate enrollment in public institutions. Vaccines may be required to enter daycare, public school or college. However, all states provide legal exemptions to "mandatory" vaccines. If you do not wish to vaccinate your child but would still like to enroll your child in a public school, acquire a copy of your state vaccine laws to determine which exemptions are permitted. All states permit medical waivers if a doctor will certify that vaccines might hurt the child. (Doctors rarely provide a medical waiver. When they are willing to write one, it's usually to exempt just one or two vaccines that caused a serious reaction on a previous dose.) Most states also offer a religious exemption, but each state has a different way of defining it. Again, acquire a copy of your state law to determine precise requirements. (Contrary to popular belief, religious exemptions do not have to be written by the head of a church.) Some states also offer a philosophical exemption. For example, Arizona, California, and Colorado allow parents to enroll their children in public school without vaccines provided they sign a letter indicating that they have "beliefs" in opposition to the vaccines. The law does not require parents to elaborate upon their beliefs. Several other states also permit philosophical exemptions. Simply sign the vaccine waiver and submit it. Authorities are legally obligated to honor the exemption.
- Private institution: Private schools, daycares and colleges are not obligated to honor religious or philosophical exemptions, although many choose to accept non-vaccinated children. Be sure to call the private school, daycare or college prior to beginning the application process to ascertain their vaccine policy. Otherwise, your child may be removed from the institution after he or she has been enrolled.
- Employer: Owners of private businesses may institute policies requiring vaccines. For example, hospital workers may be expected to receive an annual flu shot, plus rubella and hepatitis B vaccines. Some employers may accept an exemption. Others will issue an ultimatum: get the shots or find another job.
- Foreign travel: Vaccines are often recommended but rarely required for travel from the United States to foreign countries. For more information, contact the embassies of the countries that you plan to visit. Vaccines are rarely required to enter the United States from another country. The U.S. State Department provides a waiver for applicants who object to the shots on religious or moral grounds.
Neil Z. Miller is a medical research journalist and natural health advocate. He is the author of several books and articles on vaccines, including VACCINE SAFETY MANUAL for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners. In addition, Mr. Miller is the director of the Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute (www.thinktwice.com), where you can find more immunization advice. He lives in Northern New Mexico with his family.