[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [text, PDF] a New York state rule [text, PDF] barring unimmunized children from public schools. On the district court level, Judge William Kuntz II of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] ruled in favor of the state in the original lawsuit. In Wednesday’s opinion, the court stated, “the statute and regulation are a constitutionally permissible exercise of the State’s police power and do not infringe on the free exercise of religion.” The state law provides two exemptions from the mandate, the first, “[i]f any physician licensed to practice medicine in this state certifies that such immunization may be detrimental to a child’s health,” and the second for “children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required.” The plaintiff parents declared their intention to appeal [NYT report] the decision to the US Supreme Court [official website].
Childhood vaccination and the potential harm of vaccination to children has been a topic of debate in America in recent years. Much of this debate revolves around the alleged link between certain vaccines and autism. In August 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision finding insufficient evidence [JURIST report] to link childhood vaccines and autism in three cases. The decision was consistent with 18 major scientific studies [JURIST op-ed], which have failed to show a link between vaccines and the widely-diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder. In February 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 provides blanket immunity [JURIST report] to vaccine manufacturers from all tort actions filed in state or federal court alleging design defects. In May 2013 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that even for an untimely petition filed under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, a petitioner may recover attorneys fees as long as the claim was filed in good faith and there is a reasonable basis.