The 3 Reasons People Get Immunization Exemption

The Reasons That Parents Who Don't Immunize Their Children Give

Girl scared of vaccine
Some Parents Opt Out of Immunization. Jamie Grill

Each state sets its own policy and guidelines for mandatory immunizations for children.  The key piece of making sure all children are immunized is to require proof of immunization to enroll and attend school.  In order for a child to attend school who is not immunized, they must get an exemption.  Exemptions can be given for medical or personal reasons.  Each state also has its own rules and guidelines for getting an exemption and what the requirements are for immunization exemption.


Even though recent years have seen some heartbreaking outbursts of diseases like whooping cough and measles some parents choose to exercise their rights NOT to immunize their children.  If you are curious about the different types of immunization exemptions, which are related directly to their reasons for not wanting to immunize their children, read on.

Medical Exemption  

Some children and adults are actually at greater risk from getting a  particular vaccine than they are from getting a particular disease.  Often this is due to a severe allergy to one or more ingredients in a particular vaccine.  Parents typically need to get a signed note from a doctor explaining which vaccine(s) the child should not receive and why.  

Personal Belief Exemption  

Some people do not want to immunize their children because it is expressly against their religious or philosophical beliefs.  Parents of Christian denominations that forego immunizations often cite Bible passages against defiling the body.

 Some religions forbid consumption or use of some of the ingredients found in vaccines.  For example, a religious or personal belief against consuming or using animal products would go against using a vaccine which contained egg product, such as some of the flu vaccines.

The personal or religious belief must be sincerely held.

 Very few religions have prohibitions against vaccines, although many of the followers of different religions may still feel that getting the immunization is still wrong.  The requirements and ways to get a personal belief exemption vary the most between different states.  Some states require nothing more than filling out a form with the parent or guardian's address information, the child's name, and a statement that they want an exemption.  Other states, like Alaska, require documentation from ​a medical provider for a religious or personal belief.  This is presumably to show that the parent or guardian has discussed the immunization issue with a reliable medical provider.  Still other states, such as Oregon, require proof that parents have been educated about the benefits of immunization before they can receive a non-medial exemption.

Proof Of Immunity Exemption

Some children may have immunity to a particular disease already because they have already had the disease and built a resistance to it.  In other cases, booster doses may not be necessary because the initial or previous vaccine dose was enough to continue to provide immunity.  

Since children are required to receive several different shots against an even greater number of diseases, some parents may wish to reduce down the number of vaccines given to what they can prove their child is not already immune to.

Just like the other exemptions, each state sets its own laws and procedures for getting a proof of immunity exemption, if they are even allowed.  To show proof of immunity when the child already had the disease, a parent can often get medical records from the doctor who treated or diagnosed the disease.  

To show if a previous dose of a vaccine is still providing immunity, a child can get a blood titer test. This blood-draw test measures the serum titers present in the blood.  A positive result for any given disease means that there are enough titers present to be immune to that disease.  The tests do costs money, and it is important that parents understand which titers are being tested for in each test.

 In some cases, the titer test may be less expensive than getting the immunizations.  This depends on whether or not the immunizations are available for free and whether the titer test or immunizations are covered by the child's medical insurance.

To learn more about how immunization exemptions work in your state, contact your local public health office, primary care doctor, or local vaccination rights advocacy group.

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