Category Archives: Family Law

Article: Tools for dealing with Childhood Vaccination Crisis

Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Lois A. Weithorn

University of California Hastings College of the Law

March 4, 2015

Buffalo Law Review, Vol.63, August 2015, Forthcoming
UC Hastings Research Paper No. 134 


In spite of vaccines’ impressive record of safety and effectiveness, some families have failed to immunize their children, denying those children protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. In the last years, rates of nonvaccination, as well as rates of partial adherence to vaccination schedules, have been increasing. Predictably, this has led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. This article examines potential legal responses to this crisis. It sets out the legal framework governing childhood vaccination policies, highlighting the strength of governmental authority when the state’s police power to protect the public health and its parens patriae authority to protect the health of children and other vulnerable members of society converge, as they do in this context. After describing the phenomenon of nonvaccination, the reasons leading to parental refusals and the effects of those refusals, the article provides a menu of legal tools that can be used to improve vaccination rates.

Law and Vaccines: A Manual

This is the manual about law and vaccines prepared in collaboration between myself, Amanda Naprawa and Voices for Vaccines. It covers a range of issues.


Legal Topics: 

Vaccines: Regulating the Product

Protecting the Public Health: State and Federal Law

Disease Prevention: The CDC’s Role

Immunization Schedules

School Immunization Requirements

Religious Exemptions

Vaccines: Individual Choice and Community Welfare

Community vs. Individual: Achieving a Balance of Rights

Religion, Employment, and Rights

Parental Rights and the Child’s Right to Health

Informed Consent

Informed Refusal: The Risks of Not Vaccinating

Increasing Immunization Rates: The Role of the Law 


Government-Funded Incentives and Subsidies

Imposing Costs: Civil Lawsuits.

Imposing Costs: No-Fault Options

Limiting Unvaccinated Individuals’ Access

Vaccine Refusal and Criminal Law

Forced Vaccination

Other Issues: 

Vaccine Injuries: Compensating the Rare Adverse Event.

NVICP vs. the Courts

Are Vaccines “Unavoidably Unsafe?”

Why a law allowing teen agers to consent to certain vaccines is justified

This post, written with Arthur Caplan, responds to Alan Phillips’ claim that a law proposed in New York, a law that would allow teen agers to consent to certain vaccines – the HPV and Hepatitis B vaccine – without needing parental permission is unconstitutional and illegal. The post explains why the law is both legal and justified.