The United States is on the verge of a public health crisis. For decades, all 50 states have required that parents vaccinate their children against various diseases, including polio and measles, as a prerequisite to enrolling them in public schools . While virtually all states have tailored their immunization statutes to exempt those with religious (and sometimes philosophical) objections to vaccines from these requirements , widespread use of these exemptions threatens to undermine many of the benefits of mandatory vaccinations, such as preserving “herd immunity” . Since it is unlikely that state governments will eliminate such exemptions outright, society must consider other methods of providing incentives for vaccination and compensating those who have suffered due to a disease outbreak caused by a community’s loss of herd immunity.
This essay will propose using tort law as a mechanism for prevention and victim compensation while still preserving religious and philosophical exemptions to mandatory school vaccinations. Part I will provide a short overview of mandatory school vaccinations and the dangers posed by the widespread use of religious and philosophical exemptions. Part II will explore the potential role of tort law, with a particular emphasis on private causes of action against specific individuals and the possibility of defendant class action lawsuits. Part III will examine whether tort law is an appropriate remedy.
Source: Mandatory School Vaccinations: The Role of Tort Law