Vaccinations should be covered by mandate

February 24, 2012 

As a practicing pediatrician and internist, it makes sense to me that if the government can mandate that all insurers cover contraceptives, even institutions that opposed such treatment on religious grounds, then it follows logically that government should also mandate all children be immunized regardless of the parents' stated religious convictions.

This is a significant statement because most state laws, as in North Carolina, mandate that any child attending public school must be immunized; the only way out of this is if the parents claim they are opposed to immunizations on religious grounds. But as any pediatrician will tell you, the vast majority of these parents who make this claim have no such religious conviction; for a variety of non-religious reasons, they just don't want to immunize their kids. So they intentionally mislead providers (with a wink) so that we sign off on their kids' kindergarten physical so they can get the benefit of a free public education without being immunized.

There is currently a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in a private school in Chapel Hill that, not surprisingly, has a large number of unimmunized kids. These infected kids, until they are diagnosed and treated, expose other children in and outside the school to whooping cough, including unprotected infants who have not yet completed their vaccine series, and it is these susceptible small children who really suffer and/or die from such diseases - ones that are preventable if only some other parents' child had been vaccinated.

Perhaps this irresponsible choice should no longer be protected as a religious exemption. But I imagine it will remain under First Amendment protection as such a change in law would lead to quite an outcry of protest, the kind of outcry perhaps also justified by the Catholic Church.

James Kurz,

Pittsboro

The length limit was waived.

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