On Monday, Mississippi joined most other states in allowing religious exemptions for school vaccinations.
The new school immunization policy comes after a group of parents filed litigation, expressing that their religious views prevent them from aligning with requirements enforced by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). In April, a federal judge sided with the parents, ruling that both public and private schools must allow religious exemptions.
While the MSDH is complying with the ruling – a ruling that the Mississippi legislature is vehemently opposed to – agency officials are still in favor of vaccinating children to the fullest to prevent the spread of diseases.
“Because of our long-existing and strong immunizations program, Mississippi has not recorded a measles case since 1992 even as other states have seen cases and outbreaks in recent years,” interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Taylor said. “MSDH urges parents to carefully consider the importance of vaccinating our children and continues to encourage all individuals to remain up to date on all vaccinations medically contraindicated.”
Prior to the ruling, Mississippi did not allow religious or personal exemptions but did allow medical exemptions for immunizations against diphtheria; tetanus and pertussis; polio; hepatitis; measles, mumps, and rubella; and chickenpox. The state also does not require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
With Mississippi’s altered school immunization policy, the only states without religious or personal belief exemptions are California, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and West Virginia.