On Religious and Secular Exemptions. A Case Study of Childhood Vaccination Waivers

Roland Pierik

University of Amsterdam

July 11, 2016

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-28
General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-02

This paper analyses exemptions to general law through the prism of vaccine waivers in the United States. All US states legally require the vaccination of children prior to school or daycare entry, however this obligation is accompanied with a system of medical, religious and/or philosophical exemptions. Nonmedical exemptions became subject of discussion after the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak in California, which unequivocally brought to light what had been brewing below the surface for a while: a slow but steady decline in vaccination rates in Western societies, resulting in the reoccurrence of measles outbreaks. This can be traced back to an increasing public questioning of vaccines by a growing anti-vaccination movement. In reaction to the outbreak and the public outrage it generated, several states proposed – and some already passed – Bills to eliminate nonmedical exemptions.

I analyze two questions. First, can legal exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccination schemes for parents who oppose to vaccination (still) be justified? Second, should legal exemptions be limited to religious objections to vaccination, or should it also be granted to secular objections? Although the argument in the paper starts from the example of the USA, it seeks to provide a more general philosophical reflection on the question of exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccination.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

Keywords: childhood vaccination, vaccination waivers, measles, Disneyland outbreak, legal exemptions

JEL Classification: K10

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Date posted: July 12, 2016 ; Last revised: December 9, 2016

Suggested Citation

Pierik, Roland, On Religious and Secular Exemptions. A Case Study of Childhood Vaccination Waivers (July 11, 2016). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-28; General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807903

Contact Information

Roland Pierik (Contact Author)
University of Amsterdam ( email )
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
Amsterdam, 1012 CN
HOME PAGE: http://www.rolandpierik.nl/theory
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