Washington has won the dubious distinction of being the state with the most parents opting not to have their children be vaccinated. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, more than 6 percent of Washington kindergarteners were missing one or more immunizations in the 2009-2010 school year, with the chicken pox vaccine the most commonly missed; the state is said to be experiencing an “epidemic of worry over vaccine safety.” But a new state law that went into effect in July places new requirements on parents who opt out of vaccinating their children and want to send them to public school:
[The new law] seeks to close a loophole that parents used to avoid providing proof of vaccinations to schools. Now, parents must meet with a medical provider, get a signed letter confirming that the consultation took place, and provide the note to child-care centers or schools.
In other states, parents can claim a “religious exemption” or a “philosophical exemption” to forego vaccinating a child. Claiming such can (in some states) involve no more than writing a letter stating why one’s religious or philosophical beliefs prohibit vaccinating a child. The new Washington law ups the ante considerably by requiring that parents have a formal consultation with a doctor or other medical provider and get a signed letter.
Dr. Jack Stephens, a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic in Washington, notes that those who choose not to vaccinate their children are not uneducated parents, as in the past:
“The world has changed,” said Dr. Jack Stephens, a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic. “It used to be the unimmunized child was the child of an economically disadvantaged family with poor access to health care.
“Nowadays, it’s usually well-educated parents of higher social status who do their own independent research and tell you what they’re willing to do.”
A parent quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article notes that she’s concerned about a possible link between vaccines and autism. A purported link between vaccines or something in vaccines and autism indeed played a huge role in bringing “questions over the safety of vaccines… into the mainstream” in the late 1990s. But this link was based on wha
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