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J Med Ethics. 2019 Sep 16. pii: medethics-2019-105712. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105712. [Epub ahead of print]

The end of religious exemptions from immunisation requirements?

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Department of Literature and Languages, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, Texas, USA


The purpose of this paper is to propose a middle ground in the debate over religious exemptions from measles vaccination requirements. It attempts to strike a balance between public health concerns on the one hand and religious objections on the other that avoids two equally serious errors: (1) making religious liberty an absolute and (2) disregarding religious beliefs altogether. Some think that the issue is straightforward: science has spoken and the benefits to public health outweigh any other concerns. The safety of the community, they say, demands that everybody be vaccinated so that measles outbreaks can be prevented, but such voices often ignore the freedom of religion, which is a mistake. Using Martha Nussbaum's work on religious liberty, this paper claims that the exemptions should be preserved if a certain level of vaccination rates can be maintained.


children; immunisation; measles; religious beliefs

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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