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February 26, 2020

Journal of Health and Life Sciences Law

"To Shield Thee From Diseases of the World”*: The Past, Present, and Possible Future of Immunization Policy

  • February 26, 2020
  • Thomas Wm. Mayo , SMU Dedman School of Law
  • Wendi Campbell Rogaliner , Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
  • Elicia Grilley Green , Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Abstract

The worldwide spread of disease is a phenomenon that society has faced throughout history. Well known pathogens, such as influenza, together with new threats, such as coronavirus, work to devastate the lives of people the world over. In the past, when diseases threatened the health and survival of our population, the scientific community responded with the development of vaccines. Through vaccine technologies, professionals across a range of disciplines have virtually eradicated diseases such as smallpox and polio, which were at one time as much a health threat as influenza and coronavirus are today. However, over the past few decades, the United States has witnessed a growing trend of vaccination hesitation and refusal by parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Thus, as the vaccination debate rages on in concert with the spread of old and new diseases alike, this article examines the history of vaccination law in the United States, parental rights to refuse vaccinations for their children, and the dire health consequences that could result from reduced vaccination rates. It analyzes the legal history and framework of vaccination laws and exemptions, as well as impediments to intervention in the form of nationally-mandated vaccinations and the invalidation of state exemptions.

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