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exemptions. In the belief that their individual rights are being denied, many “anti-vax” par- ents claim a personal or religious exemption from the immunization requirement.
In December 2019, New Jersey came close to joining the five states that accept only a medical exemption. Approved by the state Senate’s Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, the bill passed in the Assembly. The Senate was poised to vote it into law when masses of vaccination resisters, reinforced by out-of-state supporters, rallied at the State House. In the final vote, the bill was defeated.
“They claimed the bill stripped them of their rights, but your rights don’t extend to endangering other people’s children,” says Dr. Weller. M
What Can Our Pediatricians Do?
Only a small percentage of parents are hard-core vaccine refusers. A larger percentage, up
to 25 percent, are hesitant but open to education. “Pediatricians should present the vaccine as a routine part of the first-year checkup,” says Dr. Whitley-Williams (above). But they should also be prepared to educate parents about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. It’s helpful to describe an acute case of measles to illustrate its possibly severe consequences. “Despite underlying fears or doubts, many hesitant parents agree to vaccinate their child when they see the big picture,” she adds.
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