Dr. Weeks’ Comment: The role of the state as regards public and private health is a topic of active debate. AAPS has a long and noble history of advocating for patients’ rights. President Orient’s opinion below is worth considering carefully…
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716
TO: Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee
Concerning the requirement that parents obtain a signature of a medical practitioner in order to obtain religious or philosophical beliefs exemption from vaccines.
It is the position of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that parents have the right to decline immunizations, just as they have the right to decline other medical interventions.
We support the philosophical and religious exemption.
We believe that the right of one person is not diminished by the decisions of other people to exercise this right. Therefore, immunization rates should be irrelevant to the discussion. It is worthy of note, however, that some immunizations are much more important than others, and the fact that a significant proportion of children is not 100% current with every single one of the recommended immunizations does not translate into a lack of public protection against the most important, most common, or most contagious illnesses.
Unimmunized children are not in themselves a threat. Only children who have an infection can transmit the infection. The fact that a child is immunized does not necessarily mean that he or she cannot transmit infection. Indeed, it is possible that such a child may acquire a very mild case of the illness and not be sick enough to stay home from school while still able to transmit the infection to others. It is known that the protection afforded by vaccines is by no means complete. There is also the possibility that older persons who were once completely immunized may acquire an atypical infection and pass the disease along to children while the diagnosis is either missed or delayed.
Forcing parents to obtain a medical practitioner’s signature places a significant burden on their ability to exercise their rights. There is always a cost and a significant inconvenience. It may actually be difficult to find a medical practitioner who is willing to sign a statement owing to fears, justified or otherwise, of liability or of sanctions by a licensure board. The time required for a practitioner to fulfill this function also detracts from his availability to provide valuable medical services.
The mere fact that a parent receives a vaccine information statement from a medical practitioner is no guarantee that he will be any better informed. If information is the main concern, then the philosophical or exemption signed by the parent could certify that he or she has read and understood the vaccine information statement.
Neither medical practitioners nor the government have the rightful authority to pass judgment upon a parent’s philosophical or religious beliefs.
In summary, AAPS supports philosophical and religious exemptions and opposes restrictions and burdens on the exercise of these rights as proposed in HB1015 and SB5005.
AAPS is not opposed to vaccines. We believe that if there are public health concerns related to vaccine-preventable diseases, the state could do a better job of screening and keeping sick children from mingling with the others, as well as being sure that parents have full and complete information about vaccines. In addition, the state might take a careful and objective look at the reasons why parents decline certain vaccines, and work on improving vaccine safety.
Jane M. Orient, M.D.