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AAP urges states to take firmer stand on nonmedical vaccine exemptions

August 31, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health Vaccination 


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this week called nonmedical vaccine exemption laws a failure and urged state governments to follow California's lead by eliminating nonmedical exemptions and enacting policies to improve immunization rates.


“It’s clear that states with more lenient exemptions policies have lower immunization rates, and it’s these states where we have seen disease outbreaks occur as the rates slip below the threshold needed to maintain community immunity,” said Geoffrey R. Simon, M.D., lead author of AAP's new policy statement, “Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance ."


Recent disease outbreaks, such as California's 2015 measles outbreak, show how critical vaccines remain for children’s health. High community immunization rates protect vulnerable individuals, including children who cannot be vaccinated because of medical problems or because they are too young.


AAP also this week published advice for pediatricians in counseling families who are hesitant to vaccinate their children. In a new clinical report, “Countering Vaccine Hesitancy,” AAP advises pediatricians to have compassionate dialogues with parents to clear up misconceptions around vaccines, provide accurate information about the safety and importance of vaccines, and strive over time to help parents make the decision to vaccinate their child.


“Pediatricians know some parents have concerns about vaccines, and the best way to answer these questions is by discussing them with the doctor,” said Jesse Hackell, M.D., an author of the vaccine hesitancy report. “Both parents and pediatricians are in agreement in wanting the best for a child’s health and well-being.”


AAP urges pediatricians to address the specific concerns individual parents may have about vaccines, noting that one-on-one contact with an informed, caring and concerned pediatrician is the “single most important influence” on parents’ acceptance of vaccines. In one study, 80 percent of parents said their decision to vaccinate was positively influenced by their primary care provider.


AAP is also offering a free online training course for pediatricians on counseling vaccine-hesitant parents. The course, "Challenging Cases: Vaccine Hesitancy," is available at http://bit.ly/cc-vaccinehesitancy.


California's new vaccine law (SB 277), which took effect this year, eliminates the personal belief exemption and requires all children to be up to date on their vaccinations prior to enrolling in a public or private elementary school or child care center, unless the child has a medical exemption.


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