The price of disease prevention in the group may be injury to an occasional
individual. The fact that polio vaccine prevents thousands of cases of paralytic
polio is little comfort to the rare individual who gets polio from the vaccine.
Most mandatory immunization laws contain exceptions for individuals who
have a high probability of being injured by an immunization. Many of these
laws also exempt persons who have religious objections to immunization. The
U.S. Constitution allows mandatory immunization of religious objectors, but
most states do not take advantage of this power.
The effectiveness of the immunization laws depends on compliance by
physicians and parents. If physicians give medical exemptions to a large
percentage of their patients, the level of immunity in their school system might
drop low enough to support a disease epidemic. The physician might be liable
for the results of the disease in any child he or she exempted improperly. The
physician also might be liable for injuries to children who are not the
physician’s patients who would not have been exposed to the disease but for
the physician’s improper behavior.