The debate about vaccination exemptions has been scrutinized by many Federal Judges across the United States, the latest case being brought to a Brookyln Federal District Court. In New York, the law requires that all schools, public and private, require vaccinations with few and strong exemptions. In an effort to make the granting of these exemptions more precise, Judge William F. Kuntz II ruled that any unvaccinated student is barred from attending school while another student has a vaccine preventable disease.
The case was brought under scrutiny before the judge by plaintiff Patricia Finn who unsuccessfully attempted to gain a vaccination exemption from her local Brooklyn school district. While the law applies to private schools, they have more control over granting exemptions. This ruling will make it more difficult for even private schools to grant exemptions on both medical and religious grounds.
As an election year rapidly approaches, the issues of big government versus individual’s rights and freedom has become a more powerful deciders for voters. As party lines are already drawn in the sand, these controversial issues could be deciding factors in an election. Judge William F. Kuntz II has his own opinion on the matter as the language in his ruling strongly suggests that “religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
This is a bold statement that could become the calling card for many other judges. This ruling is highly controversial and widely significant not only politically but religiously as well. The debate over the laws governing individuals to vaccinate in order to gain access to certain rights and facilities has been widespread over the country, particularly in areas of the South and among Amish communities. In 2011, Washington state set a precedent of requiring not only religious exemptions but also medical exemptions, which decreased a quarter of the exemptions granted.
One of the problems surrounding this issue at a national scale is that every state has a different approach to vaccination exemptions. In some states philosophical exemptions are qualified and in most other states religious exemptions do not need to be proven by the individual’s faith. The language of many of these laws has been evolving to be at the same time more inclusive and also much more specific.
Following the scrutiny of this Brookyln judge’s ruling about vaccination exemptions, current health reports and data support the claims of those who agree with the judge’s decision. Though many studies have been conducted the fear that vaccinations can lead to autism is wholly unsupported by the scientific community at large. Also, institutions such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have begun to track geographic clusters of disease as unvaccinated children tend to live in the same specific areas of the country. Diseases such as chickenpox, measles and mumps are being seen on an almost epidemic scale which seems to undo the work of earlier state officials and health coordinators. The CDC is actively involved in providing access and attention to these issues.
By Sindhu Reddy