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Vaccine Exemption Law Expands

In the continuing battle over freedom of health choices, Texas has become the 19th state to allow philosophical objections to vaccinations. As reported in the July 28, 2003 American Medical News, the new Texas law broadens the state's school vaccine exemption categories and, as the article put it, "has caused alarms to sound among state physicians with reverberations reaching physicians nationwide." Last month Texas became the 19th US state to allow parents to seek exemptions from state vaccination requirements for school based solely on philosophic rather than religious or medical reasons.

Dawn Richardson, president of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education, or PROVE noted in the article that, "Some children might be predisposed to reactions, or families might feel a certain vaccine isn't necessary for their child." She went on to say, "Each vaccine is different and each child is different. We are opposed to one-size-fits-all vaccinations."

PROVE is a group of about 3,500 Texas families who have worked for several years to broaden the Texas exemption law. The group supports the addition of a philosophic exemption as does the National Vaccine Information Center, a parent-led advocacy group founded by parents of children injured by vaccines.

Richardson's reasons for starting PROVE started in 1997 when she encountered difficulties in finding a physician who would address her concerns about vaccinations for her own children. "Some families are frustrated with the medical community for not being in more of a partnership position in discussing this issue intelligently with families."

The AMA News article noted that all states allow for medical exemptions for children who have a compromised immune system, are allergic to vaccine components or have another condition that makes it medically unwise for them to receive a vaccine. Additionally, forty-eight states allow for religious exemptions, which are generally tightly focused on organized religions with a tenet of beliefs. The philosophical or conscientious exemption laws of 19 states have fewer strings, although most require that parents obtain notarized documentation of their objections to a vaccine. According to the article "the AMA would like to see an end to both religious and philosophic exemptions."