On the news last night, and almost every night, one can see irate parents objecting to their children having to be vaccinated for school (mostly college now), or having to wear masks. And the mantra they cry is “We’re the parents: we make the decisions for our children and know what’s right for them.” Likewise, much of the objection by adults to getting vaccinated centers around the freedom to make decisions that affect their own bodies. While that reason may hold water for things like abortion, it doesn’t work for vaccination, because your “freedom” can make other people sick, whether it be resistance to masks or to the jabs themselves.
Most of you, at least if you’re American, know that vaccinations are required to attend most public schools unless you file a religious objection, and so it’s not up to the parents to decide about getting jabs for their kids. They could, however, send their kids to religious schools, or try homeschooling, if they wish to avoid vaccination.
To check on this again, though, I looked up the public-school vaccination requirements for two states: my own liberal state of Illinois, which has been pretty strict about masks and restrictions during the pandemic, and Louisiana, which has the highest per capita rate of infection and a lot of vaccine resisters. It turns out that the school requirements for vaccination are pretty much the same for both states, and in fact require a fair number of jabs. Here are are for the states, with the links to where I got the data:
The State of Illinois requires vaccinations to protect children from a variety of diseases before they can enter school. Students must show proof of immunization against up to 12 vaccine-preventable diseases (the number and schedule of these vaccinations depend on a student’s grade and age).
More information about minimum immunization requirements for Illinois can be found here. A summary of State of Illinois immunization requirements by grade follows:
Pre-K: Immunization records that reflect the following:
- Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis – four doses
- Polio – three doses
- MMR – one dose
- Hepatitis B – three doses
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) titer – 4 doses
- Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine – one dose
- Pneumococcal series, or one dose after the age of 2
Kindergarten: Immunization records that reflect the following:
- Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis – 4 or more doses, most recent must be dated after 4 years of age
- Polio – 4 dose series with the last dose dated on or after 4th birthday
- MMR – 2 doses
- Hepatitis B – three doses
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) titer 4 doses – (not required after fifth birthday)
- Varicella vaccine – 2 doses, first on or after first birthday, second no less than 28 days later
Grade 6: Immunizations as per kindergarten requirements listed above, plus
- Proof of having received a Tdap booster
- Proof of having received one Meningococcal vaccine (first dose received on or after student’s 11th birthday)
Grade 12: Immunizations as per grade 6 requirements listed above, plus
- Proof of having received 2 doses of Meningococcal Vaccine with the second after age 16 (only one dose required if the first dose was received after the age of 16)
All students who are new to a district in any grade will be required to provide complete immunization records.
Exemptions to immunization requirements:
- Religious: Parents/Guardians requesting religious exemptions from health requirements must complete the required form along with their child’s healthcare provider.
- Medical: If your child has a physical condition that prevents adherence to the vaccination schedule, their healthcare provider should indicate this on a physical examination form or in written documentation. Depending on your child’s medical condition, this may need to be reviewed on an annual basis.
Note: Students can participate in school without the required immunizations listed above if either of the following are presented: 1) a written statement from a physician stating that the procedure is contraindicated for medical reasons; or 2) written dissent from the parent/guardian.
The requirements for both states are pretty much the same, except that Illinois requires flu shots and Louisiana doesn’t. Also, Illinois will exempt kids only if they have religiously-based objections or medical contraindications. In contrast, while Louisiana, like Illinois, allows religious exemptions, it also allows parental exemptions of any sort, and I’m not sure if any written dissent will suffice.
As I wrote several years ago, religious exemptions from vaccination requirements are nearly ubiquitous:
- 48 states have religious exemptions from immunizations. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that require all children to be immunized without exception for religious belief.
That those two states don’t allow religious exemptions is surprising, as they’re both in the South. But good for them: there should be NO religious exemptions allowed for vaccination given that if you get ill you can make others ill. This is a case of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. And public healthcare is Caesar’s purview, not God’s.
This is only one of many religious exemptions from children’s healthcare that are required; see the post just above (and this one). Being religious gets you a real break if you don’t want to have to give your kids science-based medical care when they’re ill (I wrote about this in Faith Versus Fact.)
What about nonreligious objections? I assume that every state, like Illinois, allows students to be exempt from some vaccinations if they have medical conditions that may make vaccination dangerous, but I haven’t looked that up. What I have looked up is nonreligious and nonmedical exemptions: philosophical or “other” exemptions like those in Louisiana. Here’s what I found:
In 20 of those [48 states that allow religious exemptions from vaccination], you can also avoid vaccination if your exemption is based on philosophical reasons.
So in 48 states you can avoid jabs if you have a religious reason (and I’m not sure how strict they are about what “religion reason” counts), and in 20 you can avoid jabs if you have a philosophical reason. (I imagine that they’re not too strict about what constitutes a “philosophical reason.”) Ergo, religious belief trumps rational thought—though I’m not arguing that there are rational objections to most vaccines. It just shows how much American’s prize religion over philosophy.
In 30 states, then, your children must get vaccinated regardless of the parents’ wishes unless they can make a religious case.
But neither philosophical nor religious reasons constitute, in my view, valid reasons to exempt public-school students from vaccination. In fact, one can argue that all children, regardless of whether they attend public school or not, should be vaccinated unless there are medical contraindications.
The point of all this is that—except for religion—there is no parental “right” to decide whether or not to get their children immunized—not if they want them to go to public schools. It makes me angry to hear those parents vehemently assert their “rights”, without any apparent awareness that those “rights” deprive other children of the “right to stay healthy by not being forced to go to school with unvaccinated kids.” It’s like the old but true bromide: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.”
I feel the same way about masking. Though the data on mask efficacy isn’t as thorough as for vaccine efficacy, if public-health officials in a state look at the data and decide that masks prevent the spread of infections to and fro, there should be no parental “right” to disobey. Parents can of course object and make a data-driven case, but if they fail, well, they’ll have to send their kids to St. Corona’s.
Now parents could argue that the mandated vaccines for school have been around a much longer time, so we know what any deleterious effects might be, while the newer jabs are “unproven”. But if you know the statistics, that objection doesn’t wash much. Yes, there may be longer-term effects of the jabs that we don’t yet know about, but what are the chances of those effects outweighing the substantial protection from illness and death that the vaccines confer? Well over 95% of people in hospitals with Covid-19 now are unvaccinated.
I am always wary when one invokes “rights” as an argument stopper, for that smacks of objective morality when in fact, as with most things claimed to be “rights”, they are subjective decisions based on a philosophy of social harmony. As a consequentialist utilitarian, I prefer “dicta”—we should make those rules with the most salubrious effects. And I don’t think one can argue that allowing people to avoid avoid vaccination when they have no good reason to do so (unless they are hermits), or avoid letting their kids get vaccinated, is a better alternative than letting everybody decide for themselves. Now, the U.S. yet has no laws for doing this except for schoolchildren, but I’m in favor of them, particularly laws that you can’t work at company X unless you are vaccinated against coronavirus. I hope Biden mandates this for federal workers.
Call me a hardass; it won’t bother me.