Theses Master's

Should religious and philosophical objections outweigh societal health and wellbeing? An analysis of the elimination of nonmedical vaccine exemptions in the United States

Vasanthan, Sivanthy

The persistent rise of nonmedical vaccine exemptions and the resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases across the nation has prompted multiple researchers, public health and medical officials, and politicians to call for change. Multiple studies have directly linked declines in herd immunity and increases in infectious diseases like measles and pertussis to decreasing rates of vaccination due to nonmedical vaccine exemptions. While many states have undertaken efforts to restrict access to nonmedical vaccine exemptions, only five states do not offer these exemptions. Though the constitutionality of eliminating nonmedical vaccine exemptions has been repeatedly upheld, many legislators have principled rationales for not eliminating these exemptions and some legislators intentionally seek to expand access to these exemptions. As such, eliminating nonmedical vaccine exemptions is not unachievable but this elimination is not a priority for many state governments. Advocates of eliminating nonmedical vaccine exemptions must recognize and balance a variety of relevant public health, legal, ethical, and financial considerations. In addition to these considerations, active political opposition, lasting misinformation about childhood vaccination, and the mixed efficacy of educational interventions on childhood vaccination serve as formidable barriers to states that are working to eliminate nonmedical vaccine exemptions. Finally, state governments working to eliminate nonmedical vaccine exemptions can also look to California to better understand the positive and negative consequences of eliminating nonmedical vaccine exemptions in the present day.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Colgrove, James K.
M.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2020