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In light of recent measles outbreaks, more summer camps are enhancing their vaccine requirements for campers this year. Even families with a longstanding camping history are being warned that unvaccinated children will be turned away, despite any religious or philosophical objections from parents.
Are these requirements legal? And what should you do if your child is headed off to summer camp this year?
Inoculation, No Exceptions
"I used to accept kids if they had a religious exemption, but now I'm not," Scott Rosmarin, whose family has operated Rosmarins Day Camp in New York's Hudson Valley for three generations. "If I lose a couple kids, I lose a couple kids ... You've got to do what's right." New York State has been ground zero for the nation's new measles epidemic, despite numerous scientific studies debunking the alleged link to autism and verifying their safety, and despite state officials' repeated attempts to curtail the spread of a disease health officials call "completely avoidable."
Because most camps are privately run, they are free to make vaccination a prerequisite to attendance at camp, with or without a religious exemption. And, of course, parents are free to decide whether they want to immunize their children for camp, or if they want their children to attend a camp with unvaccinated children or staffers.
"This year in particular, similar to schools and other places, camps are being very strict about allowing children without immunizations," according to American Camp Association spokesperson Susie Lupert, who also heads association's New York and New Jersey chapters. The ACA recommends immunizations for all summer camp attendees and employees, and to carefully consider whether allowing unvaccinated campers and staff at camp is worth the risk of infection to other campers or staff, or if the entire camp must be quarantined.
The Centers for Disease Control also recommends the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children, and vaccination is their first tip for camping health and safety.
If you've got questions about a mandatory vaccination requirement, contact a local health care attorney for answers.