JCRC Policy Statement on Vaccination

Case Statement[1]

The development and use of vaccinations have been one of the most significant achievements in public health in human history. Many diseases that resulted in widespread suffering and death have been eradicated by the regular use and accessibility of vaccines. Vaccines "trick" the immune system into thinking an infection has occurred. The immune system then attacks the vaccine’s harmless pathogen and protects the body from future invasions, thus immunizing the individual.

In addition to inoculating the individual, vaccines contribute to the creation of "community (or herd) immunity." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women or immuno-compromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as ‘community immunity.”[2]

The current law in Massachusetts mandates that all students receive the recommended vaccinations but allows both medical and religious exemptions. The process is wrought with confusion, lack of coordination among various state entities, and absence of standardization. As a result, many communities in Massachusetts have fallen behind recommended herd-immunity levels for various preventable and deadly diseases, and many more lack reliable data needed to inform public health officials. Declining vaccination rates and the loss of herd immunity is creating a public health crisis for immune-compromised individuals, and others who are unable to receive vaccinations.

Jewish tradition teaches that the preservation of life takes precedence over almost every other Jewish law, and that it is an obligation to save the life of someone at risk.

Therefore, the Jewish Community Relations Council supports laws, regulations and policies that:

  • Require mandatory immunization, with the only exemptions being:
    • Medical exemptions; and
    • Religious exemptions, subject to a standardized process and criteria, which religious exemptions can be revoked in the event of a declared public health crisis.
  • Generate a consistent method for creating, maintaining and reporting information and data about immunizations;
  • Educate the public about the scientific benefit of immunizations and the risks associated with the decline in herd immunity for infectious diseases;
  • Encourage efforts to increase vaccination rates in communities with declining numbers.

[1] Source for much of Case Statement: https://urj.org/what-we-believe/resolutions/resolution-mandatory-immunization-laws

[2] https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection