FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Liability for Exercising Personal Belief Exemptions from Vaccination: The Full Symposium

Recent outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps, and pertussis, which have mostly been eradicated in the United States for decades, have called attention to the increased use of personal belief exemptions (sometimes called philosophical exemptions) to childhood vaccination requirements. Twenty states, including Michigan, allow personal belief exemptions, in addition to the medical exemptions allowed by every state. Since the 1990s, parents have increasingly used these personal belief exemptions, often related to an unproven belief that vaccines are linked to autism and other disorders. An outbreak of the disease can sicken not only children who are unvaccinated, but also children who have received the vaccine. While in the past, unvaccinated children were more likely to be low-income, increasingly more are higher-income and their parents well-educated. With the increased risk that the use of personal belief exemptions will limit the effectiveness of vaccination, this symposium addresses whether parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should be liable in tort to individuals who are infected and injured by the unvaccinated children.

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