Sunday, May 29, 2016

How North Carolina law enables vaccine hesitancy

Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that "vaccine hesitancy" is a “complex and rapidly changing global problem that requires ongoing monitoring” and a “plan to measure and address” it. WHO's warning came with a compendium of survey questions to assess the underlying determinant of vaccine hesitancy and recommended some interventions to address those specific determinants, including:
North Carolina currently has both a “medical exemption” and a “religious exemption” but no “personal belief” exemption not founded upon a religious belief. But according to NC General Statute 130A-157, parents can simply send a note to school with their child:

There is no form for requesting religious exemptions in North Carolina. To claim a religious exemption, the parent or person requesting the exemption must write a statement of their religious objection to immunization, including the name and date of birth of the person for whom the exemption is being requested. This statement would then be provided to schools, child care programs, camps, etc. in place of an immunization record. If a family is requesting a religious exemption for more than one child, a separate statement should be prepared for each child. Statements of religious objection to immunization do not need to be notarized, signed by a religious leader, or prepared by an attorney. They do not need to be submitted to the state for review or approval.”

And as my favorite epidemiologist, Ben Goldacre, notes: "[A]s any trendy MMR-dodging north-London middle-class humanities-graduate couple with children would agree, just because vaccination has almost eradicated polio – a debilitating disease which as recently as 1988 was endemic in 125 countries – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing."

Note: This post is part of series on vaccines.

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