Dozens of states reach exemption status

Image copyright AFP Image caption The public health secretary announced Wednesday that Biron was issued a “final quit notice”.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has issued a final quit notice to a family practitioner who refused to participate in a federal vaccination mandate.

A federal judge has also imposed a restraining order on a state’s preemptive ban on vaccines for schoolchildren.

The moves come after the judge in the case said it was “a monumental step towards protecting vaccination rates”.

Last month, Delaware became the first state to rule against federal mandates that states force schoolchildren to receive vaccinations.

The liberal-leaning judge’s freeze on Delaware’s law will also prevent it from taking effect from 10 April.

‘Keystone civil rights case’

In the case before Judge Timothy J. Brooks, the family doctor who did not sign the school letter saying children should be vaccinated had argued that he was “singularly motivated by religious and ethical objections to vaccination”.

The doctor argued he does not “want to advance the discredited anti-vaccine agenda by not vaccinating his children”.

Judge Brooks issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, while the case is under appeal, and said he has now become a “keystone civil rights case”.

He ruled that the mandate discriminates against the doctor and the children he is advising.

More than 400 businesses and schools in Delaware have already received letters telling them that they must comply with the law or face fines.

Mr Azar said on Wednesday that the family physician, and his patients, have “the constitutional right to reject the administration of a vaccine for fear of a possible harmful and irreversible adverse reaction”.

“That’s their free speech right and should be respected,” he added.

Vaccination registries

In light of the judge’s actions, President Donald Trump tweeted that all parents should “enforce vaccinations”.

He did not address the Delaware case, which is separate from the federal case in Georgia, where a federal judge in December agreed to block a law to force Georgia residents to sign immunisation letters in order to register for school.

A coalition of two dozen civil rights groups has argued that the state government’s voluntary vaccination efforts are “grounded in racism and poverty”.

Civil liberties groups have also complained about the rules because they would stop parents from trying to self-identify their child’s immunisation status through a state registries.

Experts say parents may be choosing not to vaccinate because the evidence is still unclear about whether there is an autism-vaccine link.

Last year, the government made it a crime to “falsely assert” that vaccines cause autism, after a Republican congressman who had introduced the bill said it was designed to protect children with autism from vaccine delays.

Judge Brooks has also blocked a federal rule preventing states from requiring vaccinations for health workers who work in health facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes.

The association representing those workers – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – said the union’s members would now face higher scrutiny.

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