Vaccination exemptions in New Jersey – Who can get them?
All Garden State children who attend school are required to receive a series of vaccinations, but last year more than 10,000 youngsters were granted special waivers to skip the shots.
According to New Jersey Department of Health statistics, 1,592 students were given medical exemptions in 2014, which require that a medical doctor or nurse practitioner specify a medical reason why a child should not be immunized.
During the same time frame, the Department of Health approved almost 9,000 religious exemptions, which only require that a parent fill out a statement and sign it indicating that immunizations would interfere with the "free exercise of the pupil's religious rights."
Sue Collins, the co-founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice, said medical exemptions usually require "a prior reaction to a vaccine - medical exemptions are pretty hard to get."
According to Collins, children who have weakened immune systems or other conditions could also qualify for a medical exemption.
"Sometimes if a child may be allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine, like the flu vaccine is cultured on egg cultures so if you have an egg allergy that could potentially qualify you for a medical exemption," Collins said.
Collins said right now New Jersey only has religious and medical exemptions to avoid getting vaccines, but she believes that should change.
"We feel that, ultimately, it should be a parent's choice. Therefore every state we feel should have a medical, religious and conscientious objection," she said. "You know when you have medical procedures that could harm or injure you, you've got to have an option, you've got to have informed consent, you've got to have a way to opt out."
Most doctors insist vaccines are extremely safe, and they play a vital role in safeguarding the health of children, their families and the communities in which they live.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services declined a request for an interview on the topic of different types of immunization exemptions.