When it comes to health and safety, we should always put kids first. Nonmedical vaccine exemptions are putting our children and communities at risk.

Every state has enacted legislation requiring children to be vaccinated against certain diseases becauses vaccinations keep children from getting sick and from spreading diseases to others. With the Centers for Disease Control recommending COVID-19 vaccines for children 12 and older, the issue of religious exemptions from required vaccinations has become more prominent than ever. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, religious vaccine exemptions are available. In addition, 15 states allow philosophical exemptions for children whose parents object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.  

It has become the school systems’ responsibility to sort out requests for exemptions based on religious beliefs which sometimes conflict with the official positions of a denomination, or which may have questionable sincerity. This should not be their job because all children should be vaccinated absent a medical reason not to do so. 

Children who cannot be vaccinated because they are too young or have certain medical conditions depend on the immunity of their peers and surrounding community to protect them. That’s why mandatory vaccine laws seek to make as many people immune to these diseases as possible. As misinformation and fears surrounding vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccines, have spread, the number of people abusing nonmedical vaccine loopholes has increased. This has resulted in outbreaks of dangerous diseases like measles that previously were almost entirely eradicated due to vaccination programs. And children with COVID-19 are filling pediatric care beds.

The government has a constitutional duty to enforce laws that protect children from harm. Unfortunately, special religious exemptions from laws that apply to everyone else are creating dangerous loopholes that are putting children in harm’s way. Laws intended to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, especially children, should put safety before personal beliefs. No exceptions based on personal interpretations, or any interpretations, of theology.

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