CHICAGO — At its Special Meeting today, the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates approved a resolution stating that only licensed physicians should determine whether a person should receive a medical exemption from vaccines.
The policy comes in the wake of tens of thousands of people seeking exemptions to state and municipal COVID mandates, contending they have medical reasons for remaining unvaccinated. The new policy states that only licensed physicians should have the medical authority and the power to grant these 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, M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H., a member of the AMA Board of Trustees.
The definition of “medical authority” varies from state to state, with some states allowing alternative practitioners, such as naturopathic providers, to approve vaccine exemptions. Surveys have shown that naturopathic providers and other alternative medicine providers (such as homeopaths and chiropractors) are less likely to recommend vaccines—or even recommend against vaccines—despite scientific evidence of safety and efficacy.
“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,” Dr. Underwood said. “We shouldn’t jeopardize public health by listening to unlicensed and untrained providers.”
The AMA already has policy opposing nonmedical (religious, philosophic, or personal belief) exemptions from immunizations, since such exemptions endanger the health of the unvaccinated individual and the health of the community at large. The AMA supports the immunization recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for all individuals without medical contraindications. It also supports legislation eliminating nonmedical immunization exemptions and encourages state medical associations to seek removal of nonmedical 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. Physicians must make the argument clearly and loudly based on the science: Vaccines save lives,” Underwood said.