A few weeks ago, I had to fill out paperwork about my medical history and vaccine record so that I can attend my college next year. This was a tricky situation for me because I have not received my vaccinations since I was in early elementary school and not up to date on their requirements.
Up until I turned 18 in January, my parents were in charge of all of my medical decisions but this one was mine. It would be my signature the paperwork saying that I would be exempting from receiving the booster shot or that yes, I had gone to the clinic and received the booster shot to get me caught up. It was my choice.
This post is not about arguing whether or not you should get vaccinated nor will I try to persuade you either way. The purpose of this is for you to be aware that you don’t necessarily HAVE to get vaccinated, you do have a choice. As of now, we are still lucky enough in America to get to decide what is put into our bodies. Take this opportunity to educate yourself on both sides of the argument and then decide on how you want to proceed.
A common belief I see among teenagers is that it everyone is legally obligated to get certain vaccination like MMR aka the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine. While it is true that every state has vaccination laws, all states also allow for some type of exemption.
There are three main types of exemptions: Philosophical, Religious, and Medical. The rules for these exemptions vary from state to state.
Medical exemptions are allowed in every state but require a signed statement from a Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathy. They need to prove that if you were to receive a vaccine your body and health would be severely negatively impacted. Some statements will be permitted without close examination while others will go through a process with the state’s health department and may be rejected.
A religious exemption is permitted through the First Amendment of the Constitution, which is freedom of religion. Still three states, California, Mississippi, and West Virginia, do not allow for an exemption on the grounds of a religious belief. Those with strong religious beliefs and believe that receiving a mandated vaccine is not within their religion are allowed use this exemption.
Each state differs in what really qualifies a person to receive this type of exemption though. Some will require a signed form while others need the signature of the pastor/spiritual advisor. States have been challenging these exemptions as a way “to protect society has a whole”. If you choose to go this route, be prepared to defend your position and beliefs.
The final type of exemption is philosophical. Of the three types of exemptions, this one is the most frequently challenged on a political level to be removed. Less than half of the states will take these exemptions as they are “based on philosophical, personal, or conscientiously held beliefs”. Once again, every state varies on what is and is not acceptable but you need be knowledge about why you are choosing to not vaccinate.
Legislators are pushing to remove any non-medical exemptions and increase the number of mandatory vaccines. Regardless of your decision, please get informed about vaccines as you begin this next step in your adult life and are now responsible for your medical decisions.
“No matter what vaccination choices you make for yourself or your family, there is a basic human right to be fully informed about all risks and have the ability to refuse to allow substances you consider to be harmful, toxic or poisonous to be forced upon you.”