School Stops Accepting Religious Exemptions For Vaccines Amid Outbreaks

by Julie Scagell
Image via Getty Images/ Karl Tapales

The school will likely not be the last to require all students vaccinated

A school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, sent a note this week to parents letting them know that religion will no longer be an acceptable excuse for refusing to vaccinate their children.

The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland is now making it mandatory for all students to be up to date on their vaccinations. This comes on the heels of a reported measles outbreak in New York and chickenpox outbreak at a school in North Carolina.

“There’s really no good credible science for someone not to be vaccinated,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Baruch Fertel, whose children attend the school. “We see from these outbreaks that it can just spread like wildfire and cause harm,” stating this is a precautionary measure to make sure similar outbreaks mentioned above don’t happen in their community.

According to Cleveland 19, the letter said in part, “We recognize that there are families that have strong views on both sides of this issue. However, this is not an area where we can accommodate any deviation from this new protocol.”

The rise of preventable diseases have been of huge concern in recent years. Between 2016-2017, there was a 30% increase in measles cases, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the end of the day, diseases like measles and chicken pox are preventable and we need to do everything we can to ensure these types of outbreaks don’t happen. Not only for our own children, but for people who really can’t be vaccinated due to illness, age, or allergies.

“We live in a global world. People have family coming from all over. People travel all across the country, so it’s certainly possible for something like that to come,” Fertal said. Plus, he added that for many parents, the choice not to vaccinate comes more from our culture than from religious beliefs. “A lot of it has to do with prominent celebrities all across the spectrum, even some politicians have weighted into this discussion,” he said.

In the state of Ohio, there are six vaccinations required for students depending on the grade, including polio, chicken pox, and measles. Dr. Fertel said the possibility of requiring all students have a flu shot may also not be out of the realm of possibility in the future.

“Choosing not to vaccinate, yes it’s a personal decision, but on the other hand, it can affect other people if one becomes effected,” Fertal said.