Doctors' group looks to ban nonmedical vaccine exemptions

Doctors' group looks to ban nonmedical vaccine exemptions
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The country’s leading medical group wants to make it illegal for parents to opt their children out of vaccine mandates because of religious or personal beliefs.

The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a policy Monday at its annual meeting that pushes states to allow vaccine exemptions only for medical reasons — not “as a matter of personal preference or convenience,” Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member, said.

The recommendation is a direct response to the outbreak of measles in California in December, when more than 130 people were infected at Disneyland. 

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Amid a flurry of national headlines, more than a dozen states proposed stricter legislation on vaccinations, though few have become law.

It marked one of the country’s worst outbreaks of measles in recent memory, prompting lawmakers like Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins in statistical tie with Democratic challenger: poll Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Maine) and federal health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to pressure states to adopt stronger policies.

Only two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, bar nonmedical exemptions for personal reasons — a policy the organization is now urging all states to adopt.

Doctors also have a responsibility in trying to prevent the next outbreak, the AMA stressed. The organization's policy called it a doctor’s “obligation to accept immunization” unless a person is medically unable to receive the vaccine.

The tighter policies would help combat the “re-emergence of vaccine preventable diseases in the United States,” the AMA wrote in a statement.