In New York, unvaccinated kids may be sent home despite religious exemption, court says

Compiled by Lois M. Collins, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, June 27, 2014, 9:45 a.m. MDT

 Children who don't receive their vaccinations may not be allowed to go to school in New York City.

Children who don't receive their vaccinations may not be allowed to go to school in New York City.

(Getty Images)

Kids who aren't vaccinated can be sent home when another student has a vaccine-preventable illness, according to a federal district court ruling.

Vox reports that "New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons."

Nonetheless, school officials have sent children home if they are not vaccinated and another child in the school comes down with a disease that vaccines are known to prevent. Their reasoning is that the unvaccinated student may contract and further spread the disease.

Three families — two with religious exemptions and one that had not been granted one — sued over the issue.

"Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies," wrote Benjamin Mueller in the New York Times.

Mueller noted that "the Supreme Court, Judge Kuntz wrote in his ruling, has 'strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.'”

Kuntz cited the case of a Swedish immigrant living in Massachusetts who was fined $5 because he did not get an ordered vaccination during an outbreak of smallpox in the early 1900s. That case is considered the one that proves the government has a public-health right to order vaccinations to prevent outbreaks or to cope with them.

As background, the article said, "Some states also let parents claim a philosophical exemption, though New York does not. Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because of a belief that vaccines can cause autism, though no link has ever been proved."

Wrote Vox's Joseph Stromberg, "All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who'd been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further."

Vox also has a comprehensive set of "cards" that explain the fundamentals of vaccines, including much of the controversy, such as claims that vaccinations lead to autism. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations dispute that. Vaccines.com is the federal government's go-to website for information on vaccines. CDC also has information on individual vaccine-preventable diseases.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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1. Owl
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 27, 2014

Intelligent parenting and good public health - 1
Ignorance - 0

2. GZE
June 27, 2014

Actions (or inaction in this case) have consequences.

3. gee-en
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 27, 2014

But how does allowing an unvaccinated child to attend school further spread a disease? If all the other children are vaccinated then they should not be worried because they are all "protected". The only one theoretically at risk is the unvaccinated child. Presumably the parents and the child are willing to accept that the risk of catching the disease are lower than the perceived dangers of the shots.

4. UT Brit
London, England,
June 28, 2014


Simple, there are children who, because of medical reasons are not able to be vaccinated. The vaccinated kids surround and protect them. Now we have parents who choose not to vaccinate their children because an ex playboy model told them not too.
You are then increasing the danger to the child who cannot be vaccinated by introducing so many children who are also not vaccinated. Look up the herd immunity wiki article.

I am sure parents would not play the "risk of catching the disease are lower than the perceived dangers of the shots" game, if there were thousands of children being crippled and killed each year by polio. Thankfully we have vaccines to thank for almost eradicating that terrible disease.