Study finds rising religious vaccine exemptions

The percentage of children starting kindergarten whose parents claim that vaccination conflicts with their religious beliefs has ticked up in recent years, even while the portion of Americans who profess to be part of an organized religion has fallen. A new study suggests some of the increase may be related to a tightening of school-entry vaccination policies.

State law around vaccine exemptions varies, with some states permitting parents to forgo immunization of their children not only on religious grounds but also because of so-called personal beliefs.

The new study, released Monday, reports that states that do not have personal belief vaccination exemptions are four times more likely to have children claiming religious exemptions than states that offer parents both types of exemptions.

After state authorities eliminated personal belief exemptions in Vermont in 2016, there was a sevenfold increase in religious exemption claims, the authors reported in the journal Pediatrics. They suggested that in some cases religious exemptions are probably being used when personal belief exemptions are no longer available.

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