SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Under newly introduced state legislation, parents in Illinois would no longer be able to claim religion as a reason to refuse vaccinations for their children, a move backed by public health officials as a way to stave off outbreaks of diseases once thought to be eradicated, and shunned by groups vocal about their objections to vaccines.
The bill would also limit the reasons allowed for a medical exemption for the immunizations required to enter all Illinois schools, and would allow students as young as 14 to obtain a vaccine without the consent of their parents.
If passed, Illinois would become the sixth state to remove religious exemptions, effectively making only certain medical conditions or reactions a way for students in Illinois schools to avoid vaccination.
Medical experts say high vaccination rates – usually 95% or more, depending on the disease – are necessary to protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to autoimmune disorders or other medical reasons.
But distrust in vaccines has caused some Americans to refuse vaccines for their children, despite wide availability.
This, in part, is blamed for the reemergence of some diseases like measles, according to the World Health Organization, which considers vaccine hesitancy a global health threat.