We argue that personal belief exemptions to the mandate for childhood immunizations should not be allowed. Parents who choose not to immunize their children put both their own children and other children at risk. Other children are at risk because unimmunized children go to school or day care when they are contagious but asymptomatic, exposing many more children to potentially dangerous infections. The risks to children from disease are much higher than the risks of vaccines. There are, of course, some bona fide reasons why children should not be immunized. Some children have known allergies or other medical contraindications to certain immunizations. Immunization refusals based on parental beliefs, however, do not fall into this category. In those cases, children are denied the protection of immunizations without any medical or scientific justification. By eliminating personal belief exemptions to those childhood vaccines associated with contagious diseases that have high rates of childhood mortality, we would better protect children and would more fairly spread the burdens of this important public health program.

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