Non-medical exemptions to vaccination in the U.S. have been under public attack for quite some time in opinion articles published by doctors in the medical literature. Now, medical trade associations and legislative NGO's generously funded by pharmaceutical companies (such as American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Women in Government, American Legislative Exchange Council) are joining forces with physician government officials to lobby legislators to remove the conscientious/philosophical belief exemptions currently allowed in 18 states. If successful, this would likely be followed by an organized, well funded effort to remove the religious exemption to vaccination, which is currently allowed in 48 states.
Doctors don't like their authority questioned and Big Pharma doesn't like its profits threatened. As national polls and parents posting comments online at AOA, NVIC.org and mainstream media boards reveal, there is a great deal of frustration among pediatricians, who are unhappy with parents asking more questions about vaccination and wanting to adopt alternative vaccination schedules. Pediatricians are so angry about having to deal with educated parents defending informed consent rights and asking for an equal partnership in making vaccination decisions for children, that AAP member pediatricians are throwing families out of their practices if parents don't agree to give children every single one of the 69 doses of 16 vaccines on the schedule recommended by CDC officials.
Bioethicists and attorneys, who are associated with universities receiving large grants from pharmaceutical corporations, are now weighing in to support doctors and medical trade associations attacking independent-thinking parents, who do not comply with federal vaccine recommendations. However, only if they can enlist the heavy arm of law enforcement will they be able to actually enforce compliance.
After more than a century of mandatory vaccination laws, which began with one dose of smallpox vaccine and have included both medical and non-medical exemptions, Americans are definitely in danger of losing the conscientious/philosophical belief and religious exemptions to vaccination in the second decade of the 21st century. With the removal of all non-medical exemptions, the medical exemption would become the only avenue for avoiding unwanted government recommended and mandated vaccinations, which could easily double by 2025.
It is important to note that it is almost impossible to get an American doctor to write a medical exemption today because the medical conditions, which qualify for a medical contraindication have been severely narrowed by CDC and AAP so that very few medical conditions qualify as a contraindication to vaccination. Therefore, it follows that very few medical conditions officially qualify for a medical exemption to vaccination.
As of February 2011, no pharmaceutical corporation can be held financially liable or accountable in a U.S. civil court if an American is injured or dies after being compelled to get a vaccine - even if it could be proven the company could have made a safer vaccine. Pediatricians and other vaccine providers are also protected from civil liability if someone they force to get a vaccine is hurt. Likewise, public health officials and state legislators issuing one-size-fits-all vaccine policies and mandates are not accountable or liable in a civil court when a child or adult is permanently injured or dies from vaccines they are forced to get.
Individuals most at risk for being harmed by "no exceptions" vaccine laws are those, who are already vaccine injured, and those with genetic and biological vulnerabilities (identified and not yet identified), which increase vaccine risks for them. Without a robust knowledge base regarding health outcome differences between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, it is more difficult to make a solid evidence-based (rather than an ethical or constitutionally based) argument in state legislatures about the need to preserve non-medical exemptions. On Feb. 9, 2012, I gave a referenced presentation about the importance of acknowledging biodiversity in vaccine policies and laws at an Institute of Medicine meeting, where a new IOM committee began to examine the feasibility of conducting a study to assess health outcomes of children, who are vaccinated according to the federal schedule and those, who do not adhere to that schedule.
About 18 months ago, NVIC launched a free online Advocacy Portal and is working hard to assist parents in Vermont, Arizona, California, Mississippi, West Virginia and other states to defend and add conscientious/philosophical belief and religious exemptions to vaccination. Even though we may be fighting a losing battle, I think it is one worth fighting.
Sometimes, people only truly understand what freedom means when they lose it. If the non-medical exemptions to vaccination are removed in U.S. public health laws, I believe it will be temporary as long as freedom of speech and press, a legitimate democratic process and citizens' voting powers are preserved in America.
Barbara Loe Fisher is founder of NVIC.org.