Policy aimed at reining in Covid vax exemptions

The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates passed a new resolution stating that only licensed physicians should have the authority to grant medical exemptions from vaccines.

As states and municipalities across the U.S. start putting Covid-19 vaccine mandates into effect, individuals who do not wish to be vaccinated are using immunization exemptions to skirt the new rule—for example, many have been claiming exemption on religious grounds, though some states have begun taking measures to crack down on the practice. Now, at a Special Meeting of its House of Delegates on Nov. 16, the AMA is setting its sights on medical exemptions.

“Vaccine hesitancy has played an unfortunate role in extending the Covid-19 public emergency. Failing to get vaccinated has resulted in tragic and unnecessary deaths. To protect everyone, we must be sure that a trained, licensed physician is making the judgment on whether a person actually warrants an exemption,” said Willie Underwood III, MD, MSc, MPH, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees, in a statement.

One of the problems, the AMA explained, is that some U.S. states have variable definitions of “medical authority” that allow alternative practitioners such as naturopathic providers, homeopaths, and chiropractors to approve vaccine exemptions—and, according to survey findings, these alternative providers are less likely to recommend vaccines.

“State policymakers need to limit the definition to physicians who have the training necessary to recognize a medical condition that prevents a patient from receiving a vaccine,” Underwood said. “We shouldn’t jeopardize public health by listening to unlicensed and untrained providers.”

The AMA emphasized that it fully supports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)’s Covid-19 vaccine recommendations for all individuals who do not have medical contraindications to the shots; what’s more, the organization added that it “supports legislation eliminating non-medical immunization exemptions and encourages state medical associations to seek removal of non-medical exemptions in states requiring mandatory immunizations.”

“One of the unfortunate side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and misinformation around it is the questioning of vaccine efficacy even though vaccines have nearly wiped out diseases that once plagued us,” Underwood said. “Physicians must make the argument clearly and loudly based on the science: Vaccines save lives.”

John McKenna, Associate Editor, BreakingMED™

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