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Review
, 107 (1), 68-71

Parental Refusal of Childhood Vaccines and Medical Neglect Laws

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Review

Parental Refusal of Childhood Vaccines and Medical Neglect Laws

Efthimios Parasidis et al. Am J Public Health.

Abstract

Objectives: To examine the relation of vaccine refusal and medical neglect under child welfare laws.

Methods: We used the Westlaw legal database to search court opinions from 1905 to 2016 and identified cases in which vaccine refusal was the sole or a primary reason in a neglect proceeding. We also delineated if religious or philosophical exemptions from required school immunizations were available at the time of adjudication.

Results: Our search yielded 9 cases from 5 states. Most courts (7 of 9) considered vaccine refusal to constitute neglect. In the 4 cases decided in jurisdictions that permitted religious exemptions, courts either found that vaccine refusal did not constitute neglect or considered it neglect only in the absence of a sincere religious objection to vaccination.

Conclusions: Some states have a legal precedent for considering parental vaccine refusal as medical neglect, but this is based on a small number of cases. Each state should clarify whether, under its laws, vaccine refusal constitutes medical neglect.

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