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Ethical quandary about vaccinations sparked by tension between parental rights and protecting public health
Date:7/8/2013

. "Easy states" require parents to complete an easily obtained standardized form; "medium states" require parents to obtain a standardized form that must be obtained from the local health department, attend a vaccine education session with a school nurse, or compose a statement of their objection to immunization on religious or philosophical grounds; "difficult states" require parents to complete a standardized form or write a letter explaining their opposition to immunization as well as having the form or letter notarized by a notary public.

States with easier opt-out requirements, non-medical exemption rates were found to be more than twice as high as those in states with more complex requirements. This led researchers to believe that states with easy exemption processes do in fact have lower vaccination rates, thereby contributing to outbreaks of measles and other childhood infections in these areas.

"It appears that increasing numbers of parents across the country desire not to vaccinate their children out of fear, convenience, or misinformation," says lead author, Nina R. Blank, a research associate in the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone. "We believe that states with very loose non-medical exemption requirements make it easier for parents to opt-out of immunizations and may pave the way for them to send their children to school unvaccinated, potentially putting other children at risk."

A more ethical approach, the researchers say, may exist in California, Vermont, and Washington where, by law, vaccine-hesitant parents are required to obtain immunization education before an exemption will be granted. Additionally, health departments in states such as Kansas, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia encourage yearly educational sessions with school nurses for parents reluctant to have their children immunized.

"Based on our findings, it seems that policy makers seeking to decrease opt-out rates should add vacci
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Contact: Lorinda Klein
lorindaann.klein@nyumc.org
212-404-3533
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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