Judge Upholds Policy Barring Unvaccinated Students During Illnesses

Source: New York Times | Page: A19

By: Mueller, Benjamin


Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn has upheld a New York City policy that forbids unvaccinated children from attending public school when another student has been diagnosed with a vaccine-preventable disease. Kuntz ruled against three families who claimed that the city’s immunization policies, which kept their children from school, violated their right to free exercise of religion. The ruling said that the Supreme Court has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.” New York state law requires children to get certain vaccinations, unless a parent can show religious reservations or a doctor says that vaccines would harm the child. Parents claiming religious exemptions do not have to prove that their faith opposes vaccines, but they must provide a written explanation that school officials can accept or reject. New York City schools granted 3,535 religious exemptions in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the state’s Health Department. Daniel Salmon, deputy director at the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that it can be difficult to balance vaccination mandates with some leniency toward families’ strong objections. He pointed out that parents who refuse vaccination tend to cluster geographically, so it can take only a few unvaccinated children to start an outbreak that can put even vaccinated children at risk.

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