While people have varying opinions about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, the question is whether such concerns and the decision not to vaccinate should outweigh the potential public health risks. The answer to this question, based on Jacobson, appears to be no. A subsequent question is whether the decision not to vaccinate based on deeply held religious beliefs should be protected when there is a risk or threat to the public.
Interestingly, as noted by Stat News, Jacobson did not involve a religious exemption from vaccination. In other words, the argument against mandatory vaccination revolved around the harmful effects of the smallpox shot on the plaintiff and his son. It had nothing to do with Jacobson’s religious beliefs.
According to Stat News, citing Wendy Parmet, a professor of public health law at Northeastern University, “multiple cases over the years have, if indirectly, created the impression that the Constitution does not enshrine the right to object to vaccination on religious grounds. It’s pretty clear there is no constitutional right to a religious exemption.” Moreover, according to The Jewish Star, some rabbis have opined that there are no legitimate religious grounds to oppose vaccination. There are, however, clear religious grounds to make vaccination of kids obligatory.