Can Parents Refuse Immunizations?
"If a child has had a serious reaction or allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, or has a history of serious allergy to a component of the vaccine, parents can refuse immunizations," says Dr. Loraine M. Stern, head partner of one of the leading pediatric centers in Los Angeles, who has also led vaccine studies. If children have congenital or acquired impaired immunity—chemotherapy for cancer, or HIV, for example, or if there is someone in the immediate household who has suppressed immunity, then live virus vaccines may have to be withheld, says Dr. Stern.
Generally, states allow religious grounds and sometimes are more liberal in granting parental refusal to required childhood vaccines, says Dr. Barry Hainer, who deals with this issue in his practice as part of the family medicine department at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Do non-vaccinated children face problems when they start school? Dr. Stern says this depends on the state of residency. "Some states will not accept non-immunized children into the public school system unless there is a medical reason," she says. "Others have a more lenient policy."