The number of Iowa parents seeking religious exemptions to vaccination requirements continues to climb, despite efforts to dispel worries the shots cause health problems.
A new state report shows 6,737 Iowa school children obtained religious exemptions to vaccinations this school year, up 13 percent from the year before and more than four times the number 15 years ago.
SIGNS OF THE NOOSE IS TIGHTENING IN IOWA
“It’s not the trend we want to be seeing,” said Don Callaghan, who oversees immunization programs for the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Callaghan predicted the state will face more pressure to tighten restrictions on vaccination exemptions if the numbers keep rising.
DES MOINES EDITORIAL BOARD (same paper, same day) Excerpt: The number of irresponsible parents in the Des Moines area increased this school year. In Polk County, they sought and obtained religious exemptions allowing 821 students to escape mandatory school vaccinations.
DESMOINES EDITORIAL BOARD RECOMMENDATION: A proposal to eliminate the exemption would be met with opposition from a few individuals on the fringe, and lawmakers would run scared. Change the administrative rules to actually reflect and enforce the language in state law about the exemption. Iowa Code clearly states exemptions are allowed only when immunization “conflicts with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious denomination of which the applicant is an adherent or a member.” (VLA COMMENT: Sounds like the inquisition)
EXCERPTS FROM THE EDITORIAL
The state only requires them to sign a statement claiming immunization “conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief.” Iowa law requires parents to cite religious tenets in order to obtain a religious exemption, but state health administrators dropped that requirement in 2003, after a federal judge ruled in another state that government officials could not force citizens to provide such details. The number of religious exemptions in Iowa has more than quadrupled since then.
139A.8 IMMUNIZATION OF CHILDREN.
(2) The applicant, or if the applicant is a minor, the applicant’s parent or legal guardian, submits an affidavit signed by the applicant, or if the applicant is a minor, the applicant’s parent or legal guardian, stating that the immunization conflicts with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious denomination of which the applicant is an adherent or member.
Yet administrative rules, which implement the law, fall short. They do not require parents to reveal which religion they adhere to or cite a specific religious tenet against vaccination. Neither does the form parents download from the Internet and sign. That should be a requirement.
ADMINISTRATIVE RULE EXCERPT
7.3(2) A religious exemption may be granted to an applicant if immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief. To be valid, a certificate of immunization exemption for religious reasons shall contain, at a minimum, the applicant’s last name, first name, and date of birth and shall bear the signature of the applicant or, if the applicant is a minor, of the applicant’s parent or guardian and shall attest that immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief and that the belief is in fact religious and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations.