Are childhood vaccines mandatory?
Are parents forced to vaccinate their children? Are vaccines mandatory in the U.S.? This is a question that worries many parents, and it is a claim that is made very confidently by many in the anti-vaccine crowd, and it appears the answer is yes, and no. The CDC has a recommended immunization schedule that most pediatricians follow. That schedule is not mandatory and many parents work with their pediatricians to come up aith alternate schedules, even though they may be going against their pediatrician’s advice when they choose to do that.
Nevertheless, we don’t live in isolation in a mountain top; we live in a society which has rules to protect the whole, and vaccines are no exception. Most states require children to be up to date with their vaccination schedule in order to attend day care centers or public schools (I am not sure how private schools handle this, so for the sake of the argument let us assume they follow the same guidelines as public ones). Those same states, on the other hand, provide opportunities for parents to exempt their children from the vaccination requirements. In this entry we will review the legal requirements, and what exemptions are available to parents when it comes to vaccinating their children.
The best sources of information in regards to this issue that I have been able to find are reports prepared for the U.S. Congress by the Congressional Research Service, CRS, a think tank that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events, whose mission statement reads as such:
CRS is committed to supporting an informed national legislature — by developing creative approaches to policy analysis, anticipating legislative needs and responding to specific requests from legislators in a timely manner. With a rigorous adherence to our key values, CRS provides analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan.
The CRS prepared reports titled “Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws” which seem to have been compiled by different attorneys at different points in time. For example I found this one, dated 10/26/09 by Kathleen S. Swendiman; this one from Angie A. Welborn last updated on 01-18-05. A couple of earlier versions of Swendiman’s report can also be found at the opencrs website. Keep in mind that these are reports compiled by attorneys and were provided to the U.S. Congress, as such I consider the information in here to be of the highest quality. So what do these reports say about mandatory vaccinations?