The Brick Township Board of Education is set to introduce a policy this week on immunization requirements for students that formally adopts New Jersey state laws on immunizations.
Under the proposed policy, new students entering the district’s schools would be required to have a medical examination conducted at a physician’s office or by a school-provided physician. Students would have to comply with immunization policies set forth by the state, which will be “scrupulously observed” in Brick, the policy states, “particularly those dealing with contagious/infectious diseases or conditions.”
The policy – in line with state law – does exempt students from having to receive immunizations in two cases: a religious exemption, or in the case a student has a medical condition such as an allergy that prevents him or her from being able to be vaccinated.
To qualify for a religious exemption, a parent or guardian would have to submit a written request to school officials. The policy states that district employees “should not question whether the professed religious statement or stated belief is reasonable, acceptable, sincere and/or bona fide.” Additionally, the proposed policy instructs employees to accept and grant the exemption request as long as religion is referenced in the written statement.
To be exempt due to a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner would be required to submit a written statement.
Besides the religious and medical exemptions, students must receive vaccinations, either by their own physician or a doctor or nurse hired by the school district.
“Objections to vaccination based on grounds that are not medical or religious in nature and that are of a philosophical, moral, secular or more general nature are unacceptable,” the draft policy states.
READ THE PROPOSED POLICY: Download/PDF format.
In New Jersey, school districts are required to grant exemptions to vaccination requirements for religious purposes. According to a recent story which appeared in the Star-Ledger newspaper, about 9,000 children statewide went to school last year – a figure that is five times higher than just a few years earlier, in the 2005-06 school year.
According to the same report, the number of children who are exempted from vaccinations for religious purposes in Ocean County school districts ranks in the middle of state averages. A total of 624 students, or 2.2 percent, are exempt. The county with the fewest exemptions by percentage is Hudson, at 0.7 percent; the county with the highest rate of exemptions is Hunterdon, at 4.8 percent.
The issue of children receiving vaccinations has gained traction nationwide in recent weeks as debate has focused on whether parents should have the right – for religious purposes or otherwise – to opt out of vaccinating their children. The right of a parent to opt out has been weighed against their children’s well-being and the health risk posed by an increasing number of unvaccinated children attending public schools.
The Brick Board of Education’s next meeting, where the policy is set to be introduced, will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Brick Township High School auditorium.