Religious Vaccination Exemptions Up For Massachusetts Kindergartners, Data Shows

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When it comes to vaccines, Massachusetts saw more kindergartners’ families than ever get a religious exemption last year.

During the 2022-2023 school year, 813 of the 66,041 kindergartners in the Bay State had religious exemptions against being vaccinated; the 1.23 percent religious exemption rate was the highest on record dating back to the 1987-1988 school year, according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

Before the 2022-2023 school year, the 2018-2019 school year had the highest percentage (1.15 percent) of religious vaccination exemptions on record.

Conversely, the 0.17 percent medical exemption rate from vaccines was the lowest the state had seen since the 1988-1989 school year. That said, the overall 1.4 percent vaccination exemption rate was lower than the rate 10 years prior (1.52 percent), according to the state’s data.

State law calls for students at both public and private schools to be vaccinated “against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles and poliomyelitis and such other communicable diseases as may be specified from time to time by the department of public health“ — with certain exceptions for medical needs and religious beliefs.

On religious exemptions, the current state statute says:


In the absence of an emergency or epidemic of disease declared by the department of public health, no child whose parent or guardian states in writing that vaccination or immunization conflicts with his sincere religious beliefs shall be required to present said physician’s certificate in order to be admitted to school.


No major religions oppose vaccination on theological grounds, although a few sects of Protestantism do. Examples include: Dutch Reformed Church, Church of the First Born, Faith Assembly, and Endtime Ministries, according to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Some people who think abortion is immoral, however, object to taking vaccines or having their children take vaccines if the vaccine has been produced or tested using the cell lines of an aborted baby. However, religions that oppose abortion mostly support vaccines. One prominent abortion opponent, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, who has likened abortion to hiring a hitman, has called getting vaccinated “an act of love.”

Vaccines for communicable diseases have been effective in reducing childhood mortality against many diseases.

For example, polio killed more than 3,000 children in 1952 but due to widespread vaccination, the United States has not had a case of polio since 1979. Globally, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says vaccines save 2 million and 3 million children’s lives per year.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.


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