Amidst national controversy surrounding vaccination laws and policies as well as growing numbers of cases of some communicable diseases, particularly measles, the Episcopal Church Executive Council passed a resolution last week to create a standard vaccination policy for use within the Episcopal Church. Although the resolution doesn’t list specific programs or institutions that would be affected by this policy, the resolution contained references to a number of different youth activities, including schools, camps, and childcare programs.
The resolution, “MW 005 Regarding Vaccination Policies” states,
“All Episcopal institutions, programs, facilities, and services must ensure the safety of participants which should include requiring that all participants and staff participating are vaccinated in accordance with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Schedule and/or applicable state law; and,
Outside of the United States, local health agencies, ordinances and protocols should be followed in place of the CDC Immunization Schedule in the same spirit of ensuring participants are protected from preventable disease through the use of immunization and the best available medical services and research…”
The resolution goes on to say that participants may be exempt for medical reasons documented by a licensed physician, that coordinators of affected programs would be tasked with ensuring that all participants and workers had complete vaccination records, and that programs and groups should “strive to ensure funding is available” for those for whom vaccinations might pose a financial hardship.
The resolution concluded by requesting that the Chief Legal Officer create a model vaccination policy for the church.
Vaccination policies are at the forefront of the news as people from all walks of life, including political candidates and celebrities, push back against vaccinations rules out of concern for health risks associated with the vaccines. Many vaccination numbers have begun a slightly downward trend in the past few years as protests against vaccinations, often called the anti-vaxx movement, have increased. Meanwhile, numbers of communicable disease cases are on the rise. As of May 30, 2019, 971 cases of measles had been diagnosed in the United States since the beginning of the year, the highest number of cases in a year since 1994 when 963 cases of measles were reported in the U.S. in the whole year.
This new resolution from Executive Council is not the first time they have dealt with the issue of vaccinations, though. In 2015, leading up to General Convention in Salt Lake City, Executive Council passed a resolution requiring everyone involved with the General Convention children’s program, whether as participant, volunteer, or staff, have up to date vaccinations. That resolution also included provisions for exemptions based on health risk.
The complete text of Executive Council’s resolution can be found online here.