School immunization requirements are an effective way of increasing vaccine rates and reducing outbreaks, but they may have a dark underside. Although such mandates protect the general public, the availability of exemptions may be open to exploitation as a tool to try to undermine other avenues for protecting the vaccine-deprived children themselves. This essay argues that exemptions from school immunization requirements should not be understood to limit the protections available to children due to a decision to withhold vaccines. The existence of an exemption should, however, prevent criminal prosecution if a child dies from a preventable disease, because a parent can justifiably believe they were acting legally.
Dorit R. Reiss, Decoupling Vaccine Laws, 58 B.C.L. Rev. E. Supp. 9 (2016), http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol58/iss6/2