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The spread of contagious diseases has been a major problem that has plagued society throughout history. In the recent past, smallpox and polio have struck down thousands of individuals, and today German Measles and other serious viruses continue to threaten the health of our population. Fortunately vaccines have been developed that help prevent these diseases from spreading through our population, and presently a large number of the communicable diseases can be combatted.

Schools are the most likely place for the spread of contagious diseases because of the daily contact of large numbers of students and teachers. The states have developed measures to attempt to deal with this potential health problem. Most have either passed compulsory immunization laws for school children or have promulgated regulations that require immunization as a condition precedent to admission to school. Other states have delegated power to local boards of education to make reasonable regulations concerning the immunization of school children, and these delegations of power have generally been upheld.

While most people in our society readily comply with these public health regulations, some possess strong convictions against submitting their body, or their children's bodies, to those immunizations and vaccinations. Christian Scientists are an example of a group in which many members strongly object to these medical practices. Furthermore, there are other students and parents who have strong personal feelings against immunizations or fear their ill effects, especially after the recent problems encountered with the swine flu vaccinations. Because our society is cognizant of the rights of minorities, a serious question can arise whether these dissenting individuals must submit to the regulations or whether constitutionally protected rights permit them to refuse immunizations.

This comment examines the effect of state laws requiring the vaccination and immunization of school children on their fundamental religious rights and right of personal privacy.

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