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Vaccine Exemption and Your Constitutional Right

In the 1905 Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a State’s right to require vaccination was first established. At that time, smallpox infection rates were confounding and the risk to public health was evident. Recognizing the imminent risk, the Court authorized that each State had the right, under its police power, to require vaccination against smallpox.

Fast forward a century later, now State’s require upwards to 15 injections prior to kindergarten – some of which are diseases that are not even be transferable to others (tetanus), diseases that have been eradicated (polio), diseases that are spread sexually or via drug use (hep B), diseases that cause an increases in other infectious illnesses (chicken pox/shingles, pertussis/parapertussis).

As an American, you have the constitutional right to refuse to be vaccinated. At least in the majority of states.

Strangely, Americans will come to find out that we have different constitutional rights depending on which State you reside in.

Due to differences in State laws, it imperative to become familiar with your own State’s requirements and wording before writing your exemption (it is not recommend that you provide a prewritten exemption because it may not conform with what is required in your state).

Here is a brief summary of the current legal exemptions (some information sourced from NVIC).

Click here to find your state and learn more in depth about what is required for vaccine exemption.

Philosophical Exemption

The following 17 states allow exemption to vaccination based on philosophical, personal or conscientiously held beliefs:

North Dakota
Ohio ( ß Yippie, that’s me!)

(New Mexico's religious exemption statute as currently written is inclusive of philosophical/personal belief exemption. Though technically New Mexico doesn't have a personal belief exemption statute, it can reasonably be considered the 18th state allowing for personal belief exemption due to the flexible wording in its religious exemption statute)

In many of these states, individuals must object to all vaccines, not just a particular vaccine in order to use the philosophical or personal belief exemption. Many state legislators are being urged by federal health officials and medical organizations to revoke this exemption to vaccination.

If you are objecting to vaccination based on philosophical or personal conviction, keep an eye on your state legislature as public health officials may seek to amend state laws to eliminate this exemption (see below to sign up to be notified via email).

Religious Exemption

The religious exemption is granted based on the First Amendment of the Constitution, which is the right to freely exercise your religion.

All states allow a religious exemption to vaccination except California, Mississippi and West Virginia.

California’s philosophical objection encompasses the religious aspect of exemption. However, West Virginia and Mississippi flat out do not honor religious exemption in any rate.

In West Virginia it is reported that enough votes exists in the state legislature to pass a religious exemption bill, but legislators have repeatedly blocked its passage.

In Mississippi, religious exemption is a different matter all together. Not anywhere else in the United States of America is religious exemptions deemed unconstitutional, except in the State of Mississippi.  This is based on a ruling over 30 years ago that the Mississippi State Supreme Court ruled religious exemption law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment, because it "discriminates against the great majority of children whose parents have no such religious convictions."

In the States that religious exemption is honored, the courts interpret the First Amendment's free exercise of religion as protecting any belief that is "religious in nature" and "sincerely held."  Constitutionally, the language used here does not denote that you must be a member of an organized religion. In essence, whether you are a member of an organized religion or not, as long as your beliefs are religious in nature and sincerely held as the law defines those terms, you can qualify for a vaccine religious exemption.

However, some States require an individual who claims a religious exemption to be a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) or another bonafide religion whose written tenets include prohibition of invasive medical procedures such as vaccination while others define religious exemptions broadly to include personal religious beliefs.

Some laws require a signed affidavit from the pastor or spiritual advisor of the parent exercising religious exemption that affirms the parents' sincere religious belief about vaccination, while others allow the parent to sign a notarized waiver. Prior to registering your child for school, you must check your state law to verify what proof may be needed.

Medical Exemptions

All 50 states allow medical exemption to vaccination.

Proof of medical exemption must take the form of a signed statement by a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) that the administering of one or more vaccines would be detrimental to the health of an individual. Most doctors follow the AAP and CDC guidelines.

Reasons granted for medical exemption generally include the following situations:

-The child's immune status is compromised by a permanent or temporary condition. For example, the child might have a congenital condition leading to an impaired immune system. Or, the child might take medications, such as chemotherapy or steroids, that impair the immune system. In either case, vaccination could be harmful to the child's health.

-The child has a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine component.

-The child has had a prior serious adverse event related to vaccination.

Some states will accept a private physician's written exemption without question. Other states allow the state health department to review the doctor's exemption and revoke it if health department officials don't think the exemption is justified.

Forcible Vaccination

Federally, the government will always retain the right to impose vaccines against the will of someone refusing in a declared emergency.

Exemption is not absolute.

Although, I am not aware of this ever needing to be executed to fulfillment. I find it highly unlikely that a person would be forcibly vaccinated - fined and quarantined, yes – but not physically restrained and injected.

There is one incident in 2009 – when a West Virginia high school student was reportedly held down and vaccinated against his will with the swine flu vaccine.

Thankfully, this is not the norm.


If you are interested in receiving a newsletter, tips and alerts via email regarding your vaccination rights – sign up here to become a NVIC Advocacy Team Member.

More information on vaccination rights:

K.N.O.W. (Kids need options with vaccines):Your Rights to Avoid Immunization  

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1 comment:

  1. Childhood illnesses were one of God's creations. We do our best to provide a good environment so our children will be healthy. If they get sick, it is wonderful to have medical treatments, and if a child dies, he died a natural death. If, on the other hand, we vaccinate a healthy child knowing that there is a risk however small and that child dies, we are guilty of murder. God did not make a mistake when he created us or disease. We make a mistake when we try to play God.


Please be respectful. If you are about to say something that you would not let your child hear, then please refrain from saying it.