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What Countries Allow Parental Choice As A Vaccine Exemption? The US Isn't Alone

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As it turns out, the never-ending debate of "to vaccinate or not to vaccinate" isn't just an issue in the United States. All around the world, countries have their own policies and perspectives surrounding immunizing children. But what countries allow parental choice as a vaccine exemption? Is exemption based on philosophical belief (as opposed to religious standings or medical need) a solely American phenomenon?

Currently, 18 U.S. states "grant parents the right to opt-out of vaccination because of personal, moral or other belief," Romper's Annamarya Scaccia reminds. Thus, vaccination is technically not mandatory in the United States. But we're definitely not alone in this. In fact, plenty of other developed nations have similar perspectives. It might surprise you that England and Ireland don't require vaccinations, either. In fact, examining a swath of European Union Member States as a whole, 15 of 27  countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations at all.

But the number countries allowing for total vaccine exemption doesn't stop there. According to the blog BabyGaga, the list of countries that don't require vaccinations extends outside of Europe, including Nigeria, Madagascar, Laos, Australia, and others.

Do any countries, then, really stick to their vaccine requirements? Though plenty of nations strongly encourage immunizations, the numbers who allow room for choice and exemption seems like a pretty long list. Still, there are definitely a few places that have their own methods to ensure that children are vaccinated. Take Malaysia's policy, for instance, where children are vaccinated in school, or Slovenia's policy which only allows for possible exemption based on submitted medical reasons. Some countries, like Pakistan, have targeted immunization requirements focused on preventing specific epidemics; Since 1978, for example, Pakistan has mandated Polio vaccinations.

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The need to specify "parental choice" as the reasoning for vaccine exemption is rooted in the way that U.S. policies are passed. State-specific laws allow for varying requirements across the board. Canada has a conundrum similar to the United States' plight, as its vaccination requirements vary by province. In the three provinces that do have mandatory immunizations, disclaimers still allow parents "to request that their child be exempted from the vaccination requirement on medical or religious grounds, or simply out of conscience," however.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has an existing vaccination initiative that works to "prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities." WHO recommends vaccination all around the world, working to lessen the number of deaths due to preventable disease. Countries definitely have different stances on when or why vaccines should be exempted, but scientists worldwide can agree that they do work and should be encouraged.