School Refuses Religious Exemptions for Vaccines in the Midst of Outbreaks
In the wake of a reported measles outbreak in New York and chickenpox outbreak at a school in North Carolina, a school in Ohio has decided to take preemptive action and mandate that all students be up to date on their vaccinations. The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland will no longer accept religious exemptions. The only exemptions that will be given will be to children whose physician "certifies in writing that immunization against a disease is medically contraindicated."
According to Cleveland 19, the school sent a letter to parents on November 15 explaining in part, “After consultation with many experts in the field, the Academy has modified its policy regarding vaccination. This is particularly important, as there are students in our school for whom it is medically unsafe to be vaccinated. Consequently, it is crucial to ensure maximum vaccination rates amongst our student body. ... We recognize that there are families that have strong views on both sides of this issue. However, this is not an area where we can accommodate any deviation from this new protocol."
The news outlet also spoke to Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Baruch Fertel, whose children attend the school. “There’s really no good credible science for someone not to be vaccinated," he said. "We see from these outbreaks that it can just spread like wildfire and cause harm."
Fertel said the precautionary measure is crucial considering how illnesses like chicken pox and measles can travel. “We live in a global world. People have family coming from all over. People travel all across the country, so it’s certainly possible for something like that to come,” Fertal said. He also noted that plenty of parents are skipping vaccines for reasons that have little or nothing to do with religion. “A lot of it has to do with prominent celebrities all across the spectrum, even some politicians have weighted into this discussion,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 220 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia as of November 3, 2018. And there have been a total of 15 outbreaks (defined as 3 or more linked cases) have been reported so far in 2018. The CDC warns that the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
The Hebrew Academy's new policy is in line with the state of Ohio's requirement that students get six vaccinations, depending on their grade. Those vaccinations include polio, chickenpox, and measles.
Fertal urged parents think about how the decision to skip immunization affects others in the community, stating, “Choosing not to vaccinate, yes it’s a personal decision, but on the other hand, it can affect other people if one becomes affected."