Thought you all might be interested to read this "paper" I wrote for a Public Health class. It's a little redundant but since you guys were interested last time I felt like sharing :-) Sorry it's a little jumbled but I wrote it in a fever induced haze and its hard to make a good argument in two pages at the best of times! Haha.

"Dear Governor Corbett,

What I am writing to advocate for will be seen as controversial, but I believe that it is a vital issue that needs to be addressed for the health and welfare of our population. I hope you will consider my opinion and re-evaluate Pennsylvania's standing laws on the matter.

It could be argued that vaccinations are one of the most important Public Health and medical advances of the last hundred years. They have shifted the focus away from infectious diseases and onto a focus on chronic conditions. We have moved beyond the age when a simple cut could kill and when childhood infections were both common and deadly. Despite these advances in vaccines, preventable diseases are not gone in the United States. In fact, some vaccine preventable diseases have seen an increase over the past few years, such as Whopping Cough. In 2012 alone, there were 41,880 cases of Whooping Cough in the United States and 1,842 of those cases were in PA (Notifiable Disease). This is the highest rate seen in The United States since 1955 (Pertussis) and strictly by looking at number of cases, PA has the seventh-highest number of such cases (Notifiable Disease). There may be several factors involved in this increase, but I believe a factor that can and should be addressed is vaccination coverage (Vaccine Coverage). The vaccine for Pertussis as well as several other diseases are required for children entering school, but there are exceptions to this including medical, religious and philosophical exemptions.

PA is currently one of 19 states that allows for both religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccinations (States). I believe that this allowance for religious and philosophical exemptions is dangerous to the health of our community and should ultimately be abolished. This view is shared by the American Medical Association: in a report on the health and ethics policies adopted by their house of delegates they stated that, “Since religious/philosophic exemptions from immunizations endanger not only the health of the unvaccinated individual, but also the health of those in his or her group and the community at large, the AMA (1) encourages state medical associations to seek removal of such exemptions in statutes requiring mandatory immunizations.” (Health and Ethics). As the AMA alludes to, the refusal of vaccinations not only poses potential harm to the individual, but can also be dangerous to the community. Herd immunity is the concept that when enough individuals in a population are immune to a specific disease, those within the population who are not will still be protected from that disease by the fact that they are unlikely to encounter an infectious individual. This concept is vital to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Without the protection of herd immunity, these people are placed in a very vulnerable position.

Because of this, it is vital that we vaccinate as much of our population as possible. The only reliable way do to this is to remove parent’s ability to withhold their children from vaccinations based on their personal moralities and religious beliefs. While I understand that this view may be seen as an infringement on individuals' religious freedom, it is my belief as well as that of many medical professionals that the well-being of the population takes precedence. In addition to this there is evidence that many exemptions are not in fact based on actual religious beliefs, but instead are used as a way for parents who are worried about the effects of vaccinations to avoid giving them to their children (Leblanc). There is also the less common Philosophical exemption available in PA along with many other states. This law, for lack of a better term, gives any parent the ability to opt out of vaccinating their children by simply signing a piece of paper. This is a dangerous precedent to set to allow people who may lack an adequate understanding of the ability to determine the risks versus benefits of vaccination.

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Though I believe ultimately all religious and moral exemptions should be removed, on a short-term basis I would suggest re-working the current law to make it more difficult to obtain an exemption. The wording of the law, “…Children need not be immunized if the parent…objects in writing to the immunization on religious grounds or on the basis of a strong moral or ethical conviction”(Immunizations), makes it very easy for a parent to cite vague reasoning for an exemption. I would suggest tightening the wording to include only exemptions based on specific religious beliefs such as those of the Amish and Christian Scientists. Though I do not believe that this is the ultimate answer, I believe it is a vital first step. Thank you, sir, for your time and attention."

Note: It was supposed to be written in a letter to a politician/editor type way, I don't actually plan on sending this to anyone in a position of power.

There is actually a whoooole lot more interesting evidence and papers and articles I wanted to include but didn't have the space to add. Hmmm. Maybe a final essay/thesis idea.