Texas A&M Law Review

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Mandatory vaccination laws require children to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases to attend school. These laws also provide exemptions to school vaccination requirements.1 All states exempt children from vaccination requirements for medical reasons, and most states also provide an exemption for religious and/or other personal reasons.2 Seven states include an educational component in their religious or philosophical exemption process, requiring that parents receive information regarding the benefits of vaccination and the risks of not being vaccinated.3 Of these seven states, five require that information regarding the social benefits of vaccination will be provided to parents.4

This type of legislation is part of an overall trend to tighten the vac- cine exemption process, which is reflected in the vaccination laws of an increasing number of states.5 Tightening the vaccine exemption process through the addition of administrative requirements has been proven to decrease exemption rates.6 But this is not the focus of this Article. Instead, the Article focuses on one aspect of the educational component of the legislation—educating parents regarding the social benefits of vaccines. The Article explores the nature of the obligation to be educated regarding the social benefits of vaccines and the poten- tial influence of this legislation on parents’ vaccination decision making.

I claim that this legislation should be conceptualized and under- stood through the concept of solidarity. Following this conclusion, I will explore the potential effects of solidarity legislation on parents’ vaccination behavior. For this purpose, two aspects of the legislation will be addressed. First, I will discuss the language included in these laws, which explicitly declare that vaccines have social benefits. I will explore the expressive functions of this language and their potential influence on parental attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. I will continue by addressing the educational process that this legislation requires. Addressing this aspect of the legislation, I will examine whether pro- viding parents information regarding the social benefits of vaccines through educational encounters is expected to increase their motiva- tion to vaccinate their child.



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