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Monday, February 16, 2015

Philosophical Exemption Threatened - Talking Points

In the state of Washington, vaccination is mandatory for entrance into school or licensed child care, unless parents choose an exemption. At present, there are three possible exemptions: Medical, Religious, or Philosophical/Personal.

There is currently a bill being considered in the Washington State House of Representatives which would eliminate the Philosophical/Personal exemption.

You can learn more about HB 2009 at this link:

We are contacting our legislators to express why we think this bill would damage public health in Washington state. Here are some concise talking points. Feel free to share at will. 


Talking Point #1 
Every vaccine is different, every disease is different, every person is different, every situation is different. This is why good medicine requires flexibility. 

Talking Point #2  
Informed consent is to medical ethics what freedom of speech is to democracy.  These are core freedoms that protect us all. 

Talking Point #3 
The trouble with mandates is that they interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and prevent cooperative healthcare. HB 2009 sends the message that our legislators think doctors and patients are incapable of making their own medical decisions.

Talking Point #4  
Vaccines are powerful medicine. But overconfidence can cause as much harm as underconfidence. As such, good medicine depends upon both critical thinking and informed consent. 

Talking Point #5 
We all have a responsibility to our community to minimize the spread of disease, whether vaccinated or not.  If we're going to legislate something, let's legislate paid sick leave for all workers.

Talking Point #6  
We are seeing a general shift toward patients and doctors working as a team to sort through the complex decisions involved in all forms of healthcare, not just vaccines. As such, we need to strengthen trust and cooperation between patients and their doctors. Mandates assume that doctors and patients cannot be trusted. This is a bad precident to set.

Talking Point #7  
In America, we value our inherent right to decide what happens to our body. 

Talking Point #8  
State law is clear on four points:
  1. The state must make ample provisions for education.
  2. Education is compulsory for all children.
  3. Medical providers are required to obtain informed consent.
  4. Education at public and private schools is conditional upon proof of vaccination. 
These four requirements don’t conflict because of the philosophical exemption. However, if the philosophical exemption is removed, medical & educational rights come into direct conflict. This is unacceptable, because rights are rights. They aren’t bargaining chips.  You can’t demand that citizens trade one right for another.

Talking Point #9  
The important thing to consider is not what people decide, but how they decide.  Some people want to find a trustworthy expert and follow instructions.  Let’s call those folks Delegators.  Some people want to make their own decisions, after taking expert advice into account.  Let’s call those folks Questioners.  Over the past few decades, there has been a notable shift from Delegators to Questioners, as education levels have increased. Because most of our public health messaging is aimed at Delegators we now have a problem.  Questioners want a lot more data and current public health messaging is just not meeting that need.

Talking Point #10  
Sometimes when we try to fix one problem we create a dozen more. This bill will do exactly that. Coercing family medical choices should not be a public health strategy. Vaccines are useful, but they are not our only tool when it comes to disease management. Promoting trust and building understanding are far more powerful and need to be better utilized. 

Talking Point #11  
The philosophical exemption is important because it provides flexibility for doctors and patients to work together to craft an individually appropriate vaccine schedule.  

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic. I completely agree. This is not about pro-vax or anti-vax. This is about informed consent, and the doctor-patient relationship.


Welcome to the conversation. Knowledge changes. People respond best when this truism is kept in mind. In community, March & Karen