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Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal

100 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2015 Last revised: 10 Feb 2016

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Lois A. Weithorn

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: February 9, 2016

Abstract

In spite of vaccines’ impressive record of safety and effectiveness, some families have failed to immunize their children, denying those children protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. In the last years, rates of nonvaccination, as well as rates of partial adherence to vaccination schedules, have been increasing. Predictably, this has led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. This article examines potential legal responses to this crisis. It sets out the legal framework governing childhood vaccination policies, highlighting the strength of governmental authority when the state’s police power to protect the public health and its parens patriae authority to protect the health of children and other vulnerable members of society converge, as they do in this context. After describing the phenomenon of nonvaccination, the reasons leading to parental refusals and the effects of those refusals, the article provides a menu of legal tools that can be used to improve vaccination rates.

Suggested Citation

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein and Weithorn, Lois A., Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal (February 9, 2016). 63 Buffalo Law Review 881 (2015); UC Hastings Research Paper No. 136. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2574001

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

Lois A. Weithorn

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-565-4660 (Phone)
415-565-4865 (Fax)

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