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Vaccine exemptions

Vaccine exemptions: Do they really put others at risk?

Saturday, February 18, 2012 by: Alan Phillips, J.D.
Tags: vaccine exemptions, children, infectious disease

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(NaturalNews) Parents who exercise a vaccine exemption for their children are often ridiculed for putting their own children and others at risk. However, legally and medically, unvaccinated children do not pose a significant health risk to themselves or anyone else. Alternative vaccine views support this assertion, but the reasoning in this article comes straight from mainstream vaccine beliefs, accepted medical practice and current law.[1]

First, from the legal perspective, forty-eight state legislatures, federal agencies (e.g., Department of Defense, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services), and all U.S. territories offer religious exemptions to immunizations. The state legislatures and federal agencies providing these exemptions are presumed to have considered whether or not the exercise of these exemptions would pose a significant health risk. They would not have enacted these exemption laws if their exercise would pose a significant health risk. Thus, there is a legal presumption that the exercise of a vaccine exemption does not pose a significant risk to anyone.

This legal presumption is not a mere exercise in semantics or logic. It is based on the widely accepted herd immunity theory, which tells us that so long as most of the members of a population are immune, all members of the population are protected. Indeed, current vaccine policy necessarily depends on this scientific theory. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us: "No vaccine is 100% effective. Most routine childhood vaccines are effective for 85% to 95% of recipients. For reasons related to the individual, some will not develop immunity."[2] (Note that they blame the "individual", and not the vaccines. Regardless, the CDC says this is why the majority of outbreaks occur in vaccinated children.) In contrast, national exemption rates run about 1% - 2.5% on average.[3] But we needn't be concerned about either, since 100% immunity is not required for all to be protected. Furthermore, just as vaccinated children are not necessarily immune, exempt children aren't necessarily lacking immunity. Many exempt children develop natural immunity, and according to the CDC, they don't have to get sick for that to happen.[4] The bottom line is, you can't determine the immunity status of any given individual child by the child's vaccination status alone. But with the herd immunity theory, we don't need to; we need only be concerned with a populations' vaccination status collectively.

Not only do non-immune children (vaccinated or not) not pose a significant health risk now, they pose no significant future risk, as protective laws and procedures have been put into place to account for them. For example, most states require exempt children to stay home from school during a local outbreak, for the duration of the incubation period of the outbreak disease. (Curiously, this practice discriminates against exempt children, since their non-immune, vaccinated peers, who far outnumber them, should be considered the greater threat, if lack of immunity is the real concern. But non-immune, vaccinated children are not required to stay home, presumably because of the inconvenience of identifying them.) Most states also have laws that can require vaccination and/or quarantine of exempt persons in a declared, infectious disease emergency. So, neither exempt children nor their non-immune, vaccinated peers pose a significant health risk -- now, or at any time in the future.

A related issue is school administrators who fear that they risk liability if they allow exemptions. The short answer is that parents exercising a lawful exemption right do not place themselves or anyone else at risk of liability. By definition, liability occurs only when a law is breached. If all concerned are complying with the law, there won't be a liability risk. Again, there is a legal presumption; here, that the proper exercise of a legal exemption does not create a significant liability risk -- or else the exemption law would not have been enacted in the first place.

Myths about vaccines and infectious disease persist, despite voluminous information refuting them, for the simple reason that fear is more powerful than reason. As the above reveals, this is true even within the world of vaccine mainstream beliefs. One of the more common mistakes comes from trying to apply concepts to individuals that really only apply to groups. Since exempt children may be immune and vaccinated children may lack immunity, we can't assume that any given individual does or doesn't pose a risk without further investigation. But again, we don't need to; if a group is immune, each individual is protected. If you factor in the use of other more effective means of addressing infectious disease concerns, the level of concern diminishes even more.[5]

Those uncomfortable with the above have recourse with the state legislatures and promulgating regulatory agencies; that is, they can pursue changes in the law. Absent such changes, the exercise of a vaccine exemption is, necessarily, a reasonably safe option that poses no significant health risk to anyone, legally or medically.

Alan Phillips, J.D. is a nationally recognized legal expert on vaccine rights issues. He helps clients, activists and other attorneys nationally with vaccine rights issues and legislative initiatives. Learn more at


1. This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical or legal advice.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines and Immunizations, Misconception #2. The majority of people who get disease have been vaccinated, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm
3. Non-medical Exemptions to School Immunization Requirements, The Journal of the American Medical Association, http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/296/14/1757.full.
4. See, e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines and Immunizations, Glossary, Asymptomatic infection: The presence of an infection without symptoms. Also known as inapparent or subclinical infection. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm
5. See, e.g., A Remarkable Successful Use of Homeopathic Prophylaxis - 2.5 Million Protected in Cuba, January 1 2009, http://homeopathyresource.wordpress.com

About the author:
Alan Phillips, Vaccine Rights Attorney
[email protected], 1-828-575-2622
Vaccine Rights (www.vaccinerights.com)

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