Don't want to vaccinate your kids? Soon you'll need doctor's note

  • Mayte Lopez, 12, of Waukegan gets a vaccine administered by nurse Marsha Noble at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan.

    Mayte Lopez, 12, of Waukegan gets a vaccine administered by nurse Marsha Noble at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Alicia Rogers, 17, of Round Lake Park, middle, buries her head in mom Maria's shoulder as she gets a meningitis vaccine from nurse Ellen Powell at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan.

    Alicia Rogers, 17, of Round Lake Park, middle, buries her head in mom Maria's shoulder as she gets a meningitis vaccine from nurse Ellen Powell at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Nurse Marsha Noble draws Menactra, a meningitis vaccine, at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan.

    Nurse Marsha Noble draws Menactra, a meningitis vaccine, at the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/17/2015 10:56 AM

A new law requires parents to get a doctor's note before claiming a religious exemption from getting their kids vaccinated, but the change won't affect students heading back to school this month.

The new requirement could be one of the most lasting results of the suburban measles outbreak earlier this year. But it doesn't begin until Oct. 16.

 

After that, parents citing religious reasons for not having their children get the vaccines required for attending school will have to present a form signed by a doctor. The form would state that the doctor educated the family about the benefits of vaccines and the dangers of avoiding them.

State Sen. John Mulroe, the Chicago Democrat who wrote the legislation, said the proposal was "to compromise, rather than eliminate" the religious exemption and that the idea was inspired directly by the suburban measles outbreak that centered on a Palatine KinderCare.

"I want people to make an informed and educated decision," Mulroe said.

State officials said those forms will be available soon. But because the law can't be enforced yet, it doesn't count for this school year.

Children don't have to present a form to get a religious exemption every year, only when entering kindergarten and grades 6 and 9, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. Certain immunizations are required to start certain grades.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Students who transfer into an Illinois school from out of state, however, will have to meet the requirement starting in October, Arnold said.

Another new law requires Illinois day care workers to prove they're immune to measles or get vaccinated.

The Palatine children who caught the measles were too young to be vaccinated against the disease, but the cases -- more than a dozen in the suburbs -- prompted statewide concern about immunizations and parents who choose not to vaccinate.

"Vaccines not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said.

That's why some states do not allow religious exemptions to getting required vaccines.

Illinois Family Institute Executive Director David E. Smith said getting rid of Illinois' exemption would be an affront to religious freedoms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He said he was satisfied with Mulroe's compromise from a previous version of his proposal, which would have required the form carry a notarized signature from a "religious official" explaining the reason for the objection. The new form won't include that requirement.

"A better compromise would have been no bill, but this was fine," Smith said. "It preserves the integrity of parental rights, absolutely."

The latest state vaccination records show that the number of religious exemptions can vary widely by school.

The Daily Herald reported earlier this year that many suburban schools have 100 percent vaccination rates.

In other cases, the religious exemption has been used more frequently. In the most recent 2013-14 school numbers, Wheaton's Clapham School showed that 74.3 percent of its 113 students were vaccinated against measles, with 22 children receiving religious exemptions.

Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights had an 83.4 percent measles vaccination rate. At Montessori Academy of Glen Ellyn, the 14 students who weren't vaccinated against measles had received religious exemptions.

Health professionals in recent years have pushed parents to get children their shots to keep diseases like measles rare.

However, state officials, in announcing the new law, were careful to say they wanted to balance it with individual choice.

Despite the new forms, parents will still be able to claim the exemption.

"We recognize the importance of providing an option for religious exemption, but we also understand there must be a balance between family rights and the health of all students," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said. "This certificate ensures that parents and students are fully aware of the risks of not being immunized."

0 Comments
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.