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This Month In Health
  • Opting Out
    Thanks to the introduction of vaccinations, more than a dozen diseases have been nearly eradicated, and some are virtually non-existent. While the vast majority of children in the United States have been vaccinated, there are still parents who refuse them. Here are reasons why. Read >>
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    When hypertension sets in, the heart is forced to work overtime in order to pump oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to all body tissues. Wonder what causes high blood pressure in the first place? In many cases, the exact cause is unknown, but there are things that play a role. Read on to learn what they are. Read >>
  • It’s Time to See Clearly
    Is your vision blurry? Do bright lights hurt your eyes? Is it hard to drive at night or do you have double vision? If you answered, “Yes,” it’s time to make an appointment with your optometrist. You may have cataracts. Read >>
  • Panic Attacks
    You’re quietly sitting at home and all of a sudden you feel short of breath, your heart is racing, and your chest feels tight. It's not a heart attack. It's a panic attack. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Opting Out

Who’s exempt from vaccines and why.

Throughout the first few years of life and periodically after that, all 50 states in the United States of America require that children be immunized for certain diseases before being admitted to daycare or school. Thanks to the introduction of vaccinations, more than a dozen diseases have been nearly eradicated, and some are virtually non-existent. As a result, children are now protected from diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis that at one point claimed hundreds and thousands of lives.

While the vast majority of children in the United States have been vaccinated, there are still parents who, for various reasons, have refused either a single dose of a single vaccine, all doses of a specific vaccine, or, in rare cases, all vaccines for their children.

Though states differ on their vaccination requirements, all states allow exemptions based on medical reasons. Since protecting public health sometimes comes into conflict with people’s rights and beliefs, exemptions may also be allowed due to the parents’ religious and/or personal beliefs. Here are reasons some parents don’t vaccinate.

Medical Exemptions

Some children have medical conditions that make it dangerous to get vaccines. This is usually due to a compromised immune system, either by a temporary or chronic condition. These children may be on medications such as steroids or chemotherapy that weaken their immune systems. Since giving a vaccine to someone with a weak immune system may harm the child’s health, no vaccine is administered.

While rare, some people are allergic to an ingredient in vaccines and should therefore not receive the vaccine. Others may suffer adverse side effects due to vaccination. A child who’s had a serious reaction in the past should not receive additional doses of the vaccine.

In order to receive a medical exemption from vaccines, the child’s doctor must sign a form and declare whether the exemption is short term or permanent. Many states also require a signed form be completed each year.

Religious Exemptions

Most states make allowances for religious exemptions. However, some states are stricter than others and require evidence that the declining family is a part of a religious tradition that opposes vaccination. In other states, a parent must only sign a form declaring religious objections. A very small percentage of religious groups are anti-vaccine, including Christian Scientists and a few faith-healing groups.

Personal Belief Exemptions

Requesting exemption based on personal beliefs is the most common type of vaccination exemption. In most states, a parent must submit a form to the child’s school district claiming personal reasons for exemption. This may be a one-time or annual requirement, depending on the state. Some states require parents to discuss their decision with their doctor, write a letter explaining their reasons for declining immunization, and/or get clearance from their community health department.

Parents in this category claim their right to exemption based on personal beliefs. They may question the safety of vaccines, be worried about their potential negative health effects, or believe the myth that autism is caused by vaccines. Most personal beliefs regarding vaccine safety are based on anecdotal information read online or gathered from friends.

The Implications

As you would suspect, there are many more unvaccinated children in states where the exemption process is easier. While freedom is a blessing, the decision to not vaccinate does carry risk. With an ever-increasing number of unvaccinated people, more people get sick. In areas with high numbers of exemptions, outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough are much more common.

And while healthy people may get by without vaccination, interaction with these unvaccinated individuals puts babies and people with weaker immune systems at risk for dangerous and even deadly disease. What does this mean for long-term health? Only time will tell.

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